Reading Recommendations

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. This is an entertaining and informative book. Learned quite a lot about the “adaptive unconscious” and the “power of thinking without thinking.” blink

The Tailor of Panama, by John le Carre. A spy novel that moves at a glacial speed, but nobody does dialog and characterization and language like le Carre. (Note: this is not a James Bond-esque spy thriller; think literary spy thriller on a slow, low boil).

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Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery, by E. Michael Helms. McClellan, a former marine, is a dynamic, interesting, and formidable series lead, and this is an enjoyable page-turner. Definitely gonna read the next installment.

 

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Hybrid Authors: Advantages and Disadvantages?

As of this writing, I have two publishers: 280 Steps and Camel Press. Camel Press publishes my Eli Sharpe mystery series, and 280 Steps publishes my crime thrillers featuring The Rook. Honestly, I’m lucky to have both, and I’m delighted that my work is getting “out there.” However, I also enjoy writing (or attempting to write) “literary fiction,” and thus far I’ve been unable to find a suitable outlet for those stories (I’ve tried the agent route.  .  .no luck). Yes, I’ve published seven or eight stories in lit mags, and that was cool, but ultimately, I’d like to make a buck or two on writing. So here’s what I’ve been mulling over: self-publishing. I’ve heard about “hybrid writers,” which, if I understand the term, means writers who have traditional publishers, and they self-publish as well. The idea intrigues me, especially the part about having total control of the finished product, and if anyone out there has some experience in this realm, please drop me a comment and tell me about your experiences.

Cheers.

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ED, NOT EDDIE Edits. . .finished!

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The editorial suggestions provided by the editor(s) at Camel Press were light, but very beneficial to the mystery in Ed, Not Eddie (Eli Sharpe #3).  They pointed out several places where I was making the rookie mistake of “cheating” the reader by completely withholding information in order to “surprise” at the end. Perhaps it’s time I re-read Raymond Chandler’s Ten Commandments for Writing a Detective Novel.  Regrettably, I violated commandment number 10, and, to a lesser extent, number 5 as well, but no matter: I fixed it, and now this mystery sings.

But as I was working on these edits, I did think of a question regarding revisions.  Writers, when you write your novels/short stories/books do you revise as you go, or completely finish a draft, and then go back and read/revise/edit? Feel free to leave a comment; I’m always curious about others’ writing process.

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SHAMUS IN A SKIRT by M. Ruth Myers…only .99 cents!

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Okay, the Maggie Sullivan books are definitely among my favorite of the P.I. series running, so I’m delighted that the latest installment, SHAMUS IN A SKIRT, is available now for only .99 cents! The third book, DON’T DARE A DAME, won the Shamus Award for Best Indie Novel last year, and it’s great. Check out a bit of my review below to get a flavor of these first-rate mysteries.

Myers definitely makes good on the “strong women” in this novel, especially the protagonist Maggie Sullivan.  Tough and pretty with a smart mouth and a strong moral compass, Sullivan is a “dame” a reader can root for.  This is the passage in chapter one that really sold me on this character when Sullivan takes a bully down:

I hated to persuade him, but Neal seemed like one of those guys who needed taking down a peg or two. I gave him a quick little kitten jab in the snoot. Not enough to break it, just enough to start blood gushing down to his chin and get his attention. . .’Don’t drip on the rug on your way out,’ I said.

Now that’s my kind of detective, but if you remain unconvinced of her toughness, here’s a great exchange between Sullivan and one of her operatives after she’s caught a beating herself:

“Holy smokes, Sis! Someone roughed you up bad.”

“Yeah, but I shot him,” I said to allay his dismay. ..

“Was it Cy Warren’s mugs did it?”

“Nah,” I lied. “Some girls have a fan club. The one they started for me is people lining up to break my nose.”

 

Coffee, Tea, or Beer: A Writer’s Beverage of Choice

Years ago, whenever I wore sport jackets with elbow pads and neckties plucked from the bins of Goodwill, I did a lot of acting like a writer, but precious little writing. I holed up in my apartment(s) with Evan Williams and an IBM Thinkpad (remember those, anyone?) and Tom Waits records, and I pretended (and even claimed) to be “writing a novel.” But I was really just drinking, brooding, and reading the works of Dead White Men. Whenever I did write, however, I tended to drink beer, and I noticed my writing was very slow, the stories filled with long-winded, bloviating asides about whatever was bothering me at the time. My thinking was often fuzzy, no doubt from drink, and I was never fully clear-headed whenever I wrote or read my work. So, for me, alcohol isn’t a real option for writing. God bless you, if you can work on the devil’s drink.

Which brings me to my on-again, off-again relationship with Earl Grey tea. I have anxiety, have had since I was a sperm probably, so caffeine is tricky. Over the years, I discovered that Earl Grey, and its just-the-right-amount of caffeine and perfumed flavor, helps me write, stay focused and alert without getting too twitchy. In fact, I wrote Go Go Gato and Split to Splinters “on” Earl Grey. Too, I enjoy looking over and seeing the steam rising off my mug. . .

Then I discovered coffee. Just the right amount of this elixir of the Gods can do wonders for your output as a writer. If I drink a cup of coffee (on a full stomach), I can write for longer stretches at a time, and the work is usually very good. I wrote Ed, Not Eddie and Alphabet Land “on” coffee, and I can’t wait for people to read them. Just be careful about the dreaded coffee breath. No one wants to offend.

So I ask the question, writers: what’s you preferred beverage while working? Would love to hear what you have to say.

Cheers.

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ED, NOT EDDIE (Eli Sharpe #3) edits. . .

Just received the initial edits for Ed, Not Eddie (Eli Sharpe #3) from Camel Press. Delving back into this one, I’m re-discovering how much I enjoyed writing tough and resourceful and complex female characters, of which there are two in this mystery: Ed Leviner, the female knuckleball pitcher in peril, and Vivian Vaughn, Sharpe’s long-lost love who is now a TV reporter. I’m also discovering just how much I like Eli Sharpe. He’s a good guy, sarcastic and an on-again, off-again alcoholic, to be sure, but he has a strong moral compass, he is iconoclastic, and he is an excellent detective. I truly hope readers (a lot of them, please!) like Sharpe as much as I do.

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“Pink Elephant”. . new Eli Sharpe story only .99 cents!

Pink Elephant,” an action-packed short story featuring the always resourceful and quick-witted Eli Sharpe, is available now for only .99 cents on Kindle! Buy it here, and as always, if you like it, write a quick review on Amazon and/or share it on social media.

Description: Former pitcher Darren “Duck” Williams hires ex-ball player/present private detective Eli Sharpe to make a delivery—a stuffed pink elephant to Duck’s daughter. Stuffed with what? Drugs, that’s what, unbeknownst to Eli, and the girl isn’t related to Duck at all. Eli owes Duck bigtime for bailing him out once, or he’d never try to save his ass after being played—taken for a drug mule. The bad guy he’s up against, Mr. Spoon, is one stone cold killer. But Eli always has a card or two up his sleeve. Introducing Eli Sharpe, PI extraordinaire of the Eli Sharpe Mysteries, set in Asheville, NC. Full-length novel adventures include Go Go Gato, Split to Splinters, and the upcoming Ed, Not Eddie. 

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Reading Recommendations

I’m starting a new thing where I simply recommend (not review) books I’ve read recently. Perhaps I’m getting lazy, but whatever. Here are three solid books, in wildly different genres, that I think you might enjoy.  .  .so enjoy!

VORTEX, a fast-paced crime thriller by Shamus Award winner Paul D. Marks.

DEAR AMERICAN AIRLiNES, an acerbic, comical, cynical “complaint letter” to (you guessed it) American Airlines, by Jonathan Miles. But, obviously, this novel is much more than that. It evolves, or devolves into a character study/philosophical rant/lament. Loved it.

THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR, a mystery featuring surfer P.I. Boone Daniels, by Don Winslow. Love the beach setting, love the character, love the voice. . .read it.

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ALPHABET LAND edits…done

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Weighing in at a lean, mean 50K or so words . . .I just finished the initial edits for my crime thriller Alphabet Land.  The editors at 280 Steps cut about 4K words, which make the story shift from moving at a brisk pace to a pulse-pounding, break-neck speed! I really dig it. Ditto the other changes they made, namely, getting rid of the character names I was using as chapter headings and replacing them with timestamps. This makes perfect sense from a reader perspective because the entire novel takes place in 24 hours. Now it reads like a super intense episode of 24.

A couple of other things I noticed about Alphabet Land. . .

Thing #1: I have a very little recollection of writing this book. So it was kind of amazing to review it again, almost like reading someone else’s work.  I was struck (and, impressed, in all humility) by the cinematic quality of the writing, the hardboiled-ness of the dialog, the gritty settings, and (gulp!) the timely relevance of the themes in play: political and police corruption, race relations, and unemployment. (Note: any “smart” bits, I’ll take credit for, but were, alas, completely accidental.)

Thing #2: The Rook is a dynamic and viable protagonist. As a part-time casket maker, part-time “problem-solver,” the Rook is obsessed with chess, with cleaning up his beloved Alphabet Land neighborhood, and with justice for the disenfranchised.  He has a twisted past, a strong moral compass, and an uncompromising nature. Might sound grandiose, but I want to read more stories with him. . .so I guess I have to write them.

Thing #3: I’m pissed-scared I will never be able to write another book. Occupational hazard, or so I’ve been told by better and more experienced writers than myself, but I still feel an odd mixture of awe at I what I was able to finish and crushing doubt that it’s nowhere near as good as I think it is. And that people will not want to read it. Maybe they won’t. Still, it’s finished, so that’s something.

But enough of my belly-aching. I’m passing 50K on Hannah’s Version, my so-called literary novel, and I’ve got miles and miles to go before I sleep.