Monday, October 25, 2010

Guest Blogger Rebecca Forster, or: How Can She Not Like Dark Chocolate?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm letting my friend and fellow writer Rebecca Forster do some guest blogs now and then, and here she is with her first. You can look her up, and learn about her amazing books, at

Halloween--How Inspiring!
by Rebecca Forster
Guest Blogger

“I saw Halloween candy at Costco,” I said.

“It’s September,” my husband responded.

“Doesn’t matter. I bought a bag. I ate it. I’ll get more before Halloween,” I say.

Halloween is still a couple of weeks away and yes more bags of candy have disappeared on my watch. Still, there is evidence that those bags existed. Sad little mini bars of dark chocolate are stuffed into a bag in the recesses of my candy closet. They are there because I hate waste almost as much as I hate dark chocolate. I am as ashamed of my overindulgence of Crackle Bars, Three Musketeers and the ever so delicious Mini-Peanut Butter Cups as I am of my rejection of the bitter dark chocolate. Actually, I am probably more ashamed of the latter because I know that I will shamelessly pawn the dark chocolate off on some unsuspecting trick-or-treater.

The poor kid will dump the bag, sift through the booty and come upon my rejects. I imagine the child crying at worst. At best, those little bitty dark chocolates will be ignored or passed over pawned off on a younger kid. Yet, as I torture myself with the idea of ruining a tyke’s Halloween, I have another thought. Hershey wouldn’t make the darn things if there weren’t a whole lot of people out there who love ‘em, would they?

Which brings me to the files on my computer mark New Ideas, Synopsis and Inspiration. In these files are a plethora of Word documents in various stages of crafting: a sentence to remind me of some fleeting idea, full-blown treatments, chapter openings. These folders scare me the same way I fear a group of raging, candy-starved, monstrous teenagers appearing at my door on Halloween. I fear the folders because they represent thinking that went nowhere, ideas that weren’t worth nurturing much less publishing. Here, hidden away, is the dark chocolate of my imagination. The good stuff isn’t there.

Or is it?

Could be I need to take a second look at the ‘dark chocolate ideas’ I have squirreled away on my computer. There might be a character worthy of tweaking, a plot that could be deepened, a story that should be softened. Dress it up, a little lipstick on the pig, change the lighting, rummage around, grab something and come up for air.

Yep, there it is. A little linty, perhaps. The wrapper fallen off. A bit crumbly and stale.

Still, in my bag of rejects, I find that time and taste has turned at least one of my personal rejects into the glimmery, glinty beginnings of a good idea. If I try again, nibble around the edges of it, I come to the conclusion that it might be pretty good after all. In fact, it might even be worth savoring. And, if I keep my eyes open, if I analyze the market, read about the business and listen hard I just might discover that there’s an editor or reader out there who has a passion for the dark chocolate of my imagination.

It’s a sweet thought, isn’t it?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Black Mask Audio--Get This Now!

Have you seen this? I hope I'm late to the party but I couldn't resist this when I saw it and had to write it up. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Blackstone Audio, the folks behind the most recent Mike Hammer audio plays, produced a audio version of Black Mask Magazine--of sorts. Not all of the stories included were featured in Black Mask, but most of them were, and this is a treat. Here's their own description, which tells the tale better than I:

In the1930s and '40s, Black Mask was the single most important magazine for the modern mystery field. Here, writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Earl Stanley Gardner reshaped the established view of mystery fiction, creating the "hard-boiled" private eye.

Now this series resurrects from those pages the toughest of tough detectives in sonic dramatizations from the award-winning Hollywood Theater of the Ear.

Stories included in this volume are "Lost and Found" by Hugh B. Cave, "Pigeon Blood" by Paul Cain, "Rough Justice" by Frederick Nebel, "Black" by Paul Cain, "The Missing Mr. Lee" by Hugh B. Cave, "Trouble Chaser" by Paul Cain, "Too Many Have Lived" by Dashiell Hammett, "Taking His Time" by Reuben J. Shay, and "Waiting for Rusty" by William Cole.

These programs are great, and it's really nice to see Paul Cain (with three stories!!!) included. These stories come alive like never before and it makes for a wonderful afternoon of entertainment. Purists may note that Hammett's tale came from American Magazine and not Black Mask, but who cares (though a tale of the Continental Op would have been great).

Of course, nowadays we produce noir features with elements we think they contained back in the day instead of what they truly contained, and these recordings are no exception. Whoever wrote the music really liked saxophones, and the instrument somehow feels out of place, like they're trying to force a certain mood--a noir mood, if you will, and it doesn't work. Hard-boiled tales work best when you don't try to dress them up.

It's great to see this because (a) it may bring our favorite material back into vogue and (b) it says this is Volume 1, which leads one to believe that there may be more to follow.... pardon me while I wipe up my drool.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Projects Gathering Steam....

As I'm sure if the case with you, I've had quite a busy week... not just with the usual work chores but writing projects as well. I've decided to stop promoting Justified Sins while I work on the next two projects: the revisions of my spy novel, Heroes Wear Black; and the outlining of the book to follow, The Rogue Gentleman. These two books represent a departure for me. Neither are particularly hard-boiled, but they are instead "swashbuckling" adventure stories with a mix of comedy. Heroes features the usual spy story hokum, but with a twist, and I think you'll like it. I'm really excited about The Rogue Gentleman, as it features an international adventurer who never has a problem finding trouble. If there is a little Simon Templar and James Bond in there, I won't complain; the hybrid is exciting. The rogue himself may be the hero I write about for the rest of my life as the outline for his first adventure isn't done yet and already I have ideas for five more books. There doesn't seem to be any story that doesn't fit him.

Like Sean Connery I will never say never, but, for now, I'm done with hard-boiled stories. I think, honestly, I've done everything I can in that department; however, I am cooking up a new take on the private eye hero which I hope to do sometime in 2011, but don't expect him to be Mr. Pierce.

Speaking of Pierce, the vigilante hero of Justified Sins, I don't think I'm going to so a sequel. That's subject to change, of course, but while there seems to be a demand for Justified Sins II, that story isn't begging to be written. I'm not sure it will be written. Like I said, I think I've done everything I can with that particular subject matter, and I don't want to write the same book over and over again.

That doesn't mean I'll stop reading hard-boiled; far from it! If there is a more "American" way of storytelling, I haven't found it, and the amount of literature available is still worth talking about.

Anyway, there's a quick update for you. I hope you will enjoy the upcoming books as much as I am, so far!