Saturday, November 27, 2010

Show No Mercy: The Teaser

Hi, gang. I'm in the process of working up the story description for my new book, a spy thriller called Show No Mercy, and I wanted to post it for review and comments. Don't be shy! Without any further comment from me, I present to you the teaser for Show No Mercy.

"Could you kill your father?

That is the question C.I.A. agent Michael Dodge faces when he learns that his mentor and surrogate father, Harry Ames, is accused of murdering a fellow agent and helping an unknown enemy acquire a biological weapon.

Dodge teams up with Harry’s daughter, Tracy, but their attempt to learn the truth transforms into a task neither can contemplate: assassinating the man they care about most.

SHOW NO MERCY. A heart-stopping international thrill-ride sure to please even the most jaded connoisseur of high adventure. January 2011."

Cover Me!

How is your holiday weekend going? I'm staying at my mother's since my sister is in town and I swear I'm getting a hotel next year. I'm sleeping on the living room floor on an air mattress that makes my back hurt and since mom doesn't believe in curtains the sun blasts into said living room and wakes one up at an ungodly hour when one has just gotten to sleep after watching the Spongebob Squarepants marathon.

My new year's resolution is to redo the covers of the ebooks I published this year and prepare some really hot covers for the books coming in January and March. I'm able to do this thanks to awesome web sites like Dreamstime, fotolia, and iStockphoto, which offer professional photographs, at a price, that when assembled properly will make great book covers. I'm talking about men and women with guns in various "action oriented" photos that will go great with books entitled Justified Sins and Show No Mercy. (Thanks for my writer pal Jon Guenther for the tip on these sites!) But what I am coming across, and maybe this is where you can help me, is whether or not to go with the James Bond-style dudes or masked hoodlums with their pistols or only use shots of sexy babes posing with guns. It's tempting to do the kind of GGA pulp covers so prevalent in the glory days but the photos I am finding are a little too racy, but you can't deny that a woman in a bloody slip holding a gun in one hand and a knife in the other wouldn't catch somebody's eye and that's what an author wants but even I have certain standards. Very few standards, but standards nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Writer's Mind

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all, and I certainly hope you have plans that will provide you with needed R&R, because who doesn’t need a break after this particularly trying time? I plan on spending a lot of the holiday weekend with my face down in notebook pages as I write the new novel, The Rogue Gentleman. I feel very strongly that this is going to be a hot book, and I feel it as strongly as a TSA agent feeling up a three-year-old.

Writing a story is probably one of the most rewarding activities I engage in, because of moments like the other day when I was scribbling a scene between the hero—the aforementioned rogue gentleman—and the police detective he interacts with. My outline doesn’t go into characterizations or anything like that, it just gives the facts of a scene, so it’s up to my imagination and other pre-writing activity to fill in the gaps. The hero of the book is a cigar smoker; when it came time to introduce the detective, he became a cigar smoker, too, but because if his daughter’s college tuition, he can only afford the cheap smokes. This shared habit was the turning point in their conversation, which was supposed to end with them forging an alliance against the bad guys. Before that, the dialogue had to carry the day and it didn’t have the impact I wanted; I didn't think mere words would forge the bond these two needed to make the plans they later make. They needed something else.

At one point the detective leans back in his chair, his jacket falls open, and the hero sees the el cheapo cigar sticking out of his shirt pocket. The hero then produces a much more expensive cigar from his own shirt pocket, the kind the detective wishes he could afford. If the detective likes it, the hero promises to buy him a case. The detective doesn’t take it right away; he’s not sure he should, but then he does and BOOM the dynamic between the characters transformed and suddenly their alliance wasn't so hard to swallow.

The other funny thing about this new book is how much material from an old book I’m incorporating. Every writer has “trunk novels”, stuff they and for a variety of reasons put in a drawer. One of my trunk novels has not only provided material for my previous book Justified Sins, but it’s providing a lot of material for The Rogue Gentleman as well. And there will be enough left over for a third book. It’s the manuscript that keeps on giving. You might be asking, If the trunk novel has so much good stuff, why didn't you publish it by itself? I don't know. I think somebody told me they didn't like it. Maybe I worked on it for too long and lost interest. I can't remember the reason anymore.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into a writer’s mind. I assure you all writers have them; now, when you read a book, maybe you can imagine how the author created what seems like an effortless the story, but you'll know better.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rebecca Forster: A Rocky Road to Inspiration

Editor's Note: Here's Rebecca again with a post about finding creativity in an unlikely place. One of these days I have to go visit her neighborhood; every time she talks about it, I get jealous. I don't live in a place as cool as hers. Learn more about Rebecca's books at Her latest is a romantic thriller called Wilde's Gamble and it's a winner all the way.

Sometimes I find myself uninspired. Creatively shot. Not a word of dialogue for mute characters or description of a fictional landscape presents themselves. The next turn of phrase, the next analogy, adverb or adjective is on the tip of my tongue but that tongue is tied. The fuel pump’s blocked, the door is closed. I am, so to speak, between a creative rock and a hard place. Giving up is out of the question so I talk a walk to jar my thoughts loose. My destination is the bustling village a mile down the hill from my house.

If I head to the beach, I will walk on white sand that rings the sapphire blue ocean which fills a horseshoe of a bay. I can see Malibu across the water and dolphin in the curl of the waves as they frolic with the surfers. There are skaters, volleyball players, cyclists and a plethora of beautiful California bodies which I would probably appreciate more if I were younger. As it is, all those beautiful people only serve to remind me that I’m not.

If I go the other way, I walk on asphalt, past rows of well-kept, modestly-sized ranch style houses. This is the route I usually take because there is one house that never fails to pique my curiosity. Actually, it isn’t the house but the rock that sits on the lawn in front of the house that I find so curious.

This rock is unimpressively grey, round on top and flat on the bottom. Rather than move it, the owner of the house planted grass around it. The lawn is beautiful; the rock is not. The rock is arm-span wide and a little more than knee-high. There is a stone on top of it that looks like a dinosaur egg. The rock and the stone could be one of those Boy Scout signs my brothers ringed around the backyard pointing the way to our own backdoor. For me, the rock points the way to inspiration. Whoever lives in the house makes the rock and stone his canvas and three times a year it becomes something else entirely.

In October the rock is wrapped in orange paper, the stone in green and it is transformed into a pumpkin.

Come December, the rock becomes a granite snowman with a red and green stripped scarf wrapped around its nonexistent neck.

Ah, spring! Rock as Easter Bunny….

You get the idea.

With a little help, the rock and stone become heralds of good cheer and harbingers of happy times to come. The rock speaks of faithfulness, passing each year with the owner of the house, marking time, submitting to the ‘artists’ vision. The rock, all dressed up, is funny and pleasing to the eye and unexpected. It is a public service and I, as a member of the public, never cease to be delighted by the ever morphing rock and his friend the stone. Here is a story told completely, without need of explanation or overt flourish.

I believe in getting lost in a narrative, in creating fantasy, in telling a good story. I believe that around every corner is a mystery or mayhem or madness or magic if we just keep our eyes open. I believe that someday I will walk by the rock and it will lament that it is too hot to wear a scarf during the California Christmas season. When that happens, I’ll pause and loosen the scarf. Maybe I’ll rest on the lawn and we’ll have a chat. Ah, if only that would happen.

And when my mind is mired, when I feel that I am stone deaf to inspiration and that my creativity is weighed down by real life, I don’t despair. I know I will have to go no further to find either than to walk through a modest neighborhood where I will give a wink and nod to a rock, a stone and whoever is in that house who can teach me a thing or two about creativity.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Finding These Words is Like Digging for Coal

Who among you is participating in NaNoWriMo? The reports coming from writer pals in the flesh and on-line are impressive; some of you are really pounding out the words and you should be proud about the output.

I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but I am writing (a new novel called The Rogue Gentleman) and trying for my usual five pages a day. This time, I am making a few changes to my usual routine.

Normally I write first in long-hand in a notebook, then type, either into the computer or on my grandfather's Royal typewriter. In order to get Rogue finished by March, I thought I would type straight into the computer this time. I don't think my brain is used to this because getting any more than two pages done each day has been hard. It's not that the words are not there. I have a detailed outline to follow and plug away accordingly. But, wow, I've never had this much trouble pumping out pages before.

It's okay, though, because at least there are pages being typed, and the story is moving along. I guess I expect more of myself, though.

Anyway, it could be worse. There could be no words at all. Where would I be then?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Can't We All Just Get Along?, or: Why Are They Always Picking On Indies?

We read today that a bunch of C grade midlist authors have formed a group called Top Suspense and are putting their backlists, and some current offerings, on Kindle and other electronic formats. The spokesman, Dave Zeltserman, said it's part of their effort, as "established" and "proven" authors, to offer "good" ebooks since so much of the ebook market is slush.

But, wait, don't take my word for it! From their press release:

"Electronic books are soon to be a billion dollar business, yet it's more difficult than ever to find a good read, especially via digital download. With more than 700,000 ebooks already on line, with a good number of them self-published, ebook stores are becoming the equivalent of publisher's past 'slush piles'. A newly-formed collaborative site called The Top Suspense Group plans to slash through all the clutter. will be offering readers one central site filled with exciting e-books, covering several genres and all at reasonable prices.

'Readers can count on us,' creator and acclaimed author Dave Zeltserman explains, 'Every member of our group has already made his or her mark on genre fiction, whether it's noir, crime, mystery, thriller, horror or Westerns, and in some cases, several of these genres.'

Authors aboard include Zeltserman, Max Allan Collins, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Vicki Hendricks, and Harry Shannon.

Zeltserman has spoken before about the difficulty readers have in searching for sites that offer seasoned professionals..."

Of course, this begs the question, Who the heck is Dave Zeltserman and what has he written that has been so widely acclaimed as we cannot think of a single title?, and reminds us that "widely acclaimed" also means "out-of-print due to lack of sales" but never mind. The fact that none of these folks, other than, say, Max Allan Collins, has sold enough books to even be somewhat known in the world (and only then because of Road to Perdition), shall not be mentioned or questioned, either, as it would be in bad taste to do so.

(A quick shout down the hall to Miss Zelda informs us that Mr. Zeltserman published his first book In His Shadow with a company called iUniverse, which Miss Zelda further informs us is a self-publishing company. Pot, meet kettle.)

We are inclined to let Top Suspense have their part of the sand box knowing they probably won't sell any more ebooks than they have paper books, which is why a lot of them are either out-of-print or have been working for Z list publishers for the last two decades, with two or three--notable, of course--exceptions, but we won't mention that as, again, it's in bad taste and we need not further muddy the already dirty water.

But seriously, folks, can't we all just get along? The ebook market may indeed have a lot of crap (and it does; Dave is not wrong, just an elitist snob) but to offer blanket statements that it's all garbage when a lot of "independent authors" (oh how we hate that PC feel-good term) are doing our best to release quality work--because we respect our audience--is wrong. It would be better for the Top Suspense team to say they are making their work available to take advantage of this new and exciting market. But, of course, that would be too easy, and these "established" and "proven" authors must, for some reason, attack those of us who are trying to slug it out in a tough market when in reality it is a waste of time and energy that these "established" and "proven" authors could better use, maybe, writing books, but, again, that would be too easy.

But we know how to waste time and energy in response. In fact, we wasted about a half hour writing this.

Good luck, guys.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post: Rebecca Forster--HEROES ALL

Editor's Note: Here's my fellow writer and pal Rebecca Forster with another post; and a good one, too. For more go to Enjoy....

Planning a new book begins with conjuring up a victim and a hero. The first must be protected, avenged or rescued; the second must be the protector, the avenger and the one who rides to the rescue.

Today, though, I attended a fundraiser for Ability First, an organization that provides services to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities realize their full potential. That's when the old story rule went out the window.

There I was, out of my jeans, dressed in my very lady-like shirtwaist and Jackie-O pearls, ready to lunch and watch a fashion show in support of a worthy cause. But I was early and the behind-the-scenes activity was even more interesting than the afternoon ahead.

The women of the Long Beach Center Guild of Ability First were working feverishly, setting up silent auction baskets and tables for the luncheon, making sure the sound system worked. Young people in brick-red t-shirts identifying them as Ability First staff helped vendors, manned the check-in table and took pictures. They also rehearsed the Ability First clients for the presentation they would make to the audience.

During those early hours, I met Geri. Wheelchair bound and unable to communicate verbally, she nonetheless was able to make it clear she was happy to be at the event and happier still to participate. When the luncheon began, Geri and her friends 'signed' a song for a group of 230 women who had come to celebrate their accomplishments and donate time and money to make sure that the swimming, arts, housing programs and more continue to service these amazingly courageous people.

I realize events like this aren't unusual. Everywhere you look there are ribbons to be worn, walks and runs to participate in and concerts that benefit good causes. But often I find it difficult to connect with these causes and their big events. Ability First, Long Beach is right in my own backyard and I was there, in that ballroom, with people who believed in the work that Ability First is doing. I was caught up in the the personal joy everyone felt and that made me feel great!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pick a Title, Already; Mr. Pierce Will Return

Many of you have written to tell me how much you enjoyed my ebook Justified Sins and the hero of that book, Mr. Pierce. Pierce, for those of you just joining us, is a vigilante waging a one-man war on crime because, when he was young, his family was killed by home invaders. In the book, he has to protect his foster sister from the gang that murders her husband. Some pre-readers told me the story didn't work, the concept was tired, Charles Bronson was dead, etc., etc., but I thought the emphasis on character and a general theme would carry the story in ways previous entires in the vigilante genre didn't. From your letters, it appears I was right. You like the book.

You may also recall that I have stated Justified Sins was the end of the mother lode and I didn't anticipate further Pierce adventures; however, yesterday in a very long, and very boring, meeting at work, I thought back to an old manuscript that I never finished that would be a great Pierce story properly rewritten. So expect what I am currently calling Dirty Little Secrets--aka The Return of Mr. Pierce--to appear toward the end of 2011.

And thank you for the wonderful letters.


I'm busy putting the new spy novel in final form, and it's a ton of fun, and I really think this is going to be a good story. This book was my NaNoWriMo project last year, and I almost didn't finish it because I didn't want to get looped into a spy series, but I have seen the light. I think you'll like it very much.

There will be some confusing when I release the book on Kindle as it's previously been promoted as The Eagle Intercept and Heroes Wear Black. Neither of those titles worked for me; I have now settled on Show No Mercy, which is the title of a book I wrote and rewrote throughout my high school years, which were more years ago than I care to remember.

So in January get ready to meet Michael Dodge and Tracy Ames, a pair of CIA agents who will go anywhere and do anything to get the job done as they face the possibility that Tracy's father, and Michael's mentor, has betrayed the Agency.

I'll release it on Kindle first, with a hot cover (and I'll be redoing the covers for my previous books, too) and while it's racking up ebook sales I'll be submitting it to traditional publishing offices. I like it that much. This could be the start of something nice. And I have three more Dodge books in the pipeline, so if he proves as popular as Mr. Pierce, you will all be very happy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hard-Boiled Bogie, or: You Know How to Whistle, Don't You, Steve?

To Have and Have Not is on the television right now and I think it's one of the best movies, with one of the worst belly-flop endings ever put on film, that Humphrey Bogart starred in. He made a lot of good movies, but there are three that stand out because of their hard-boiled elements, especially with Bogie's character, and I'd like to go over them with you.

To Have and Have Not gives us shades of Casablanca without Bogie crying into his scotch. We get intrigue in occupied territory and Bogie's Captain Morgan (love that name--was Hemingway drinking that wonderful elixir when he wrote the novel?) is the cautious outsider trying to live his life as peacefully as he can without getting into the fight. He does things his own way, looks out for himself, but once he's drawn into the fight for personal reasons he ends up making a sacrifice that changes his destiny for the better. It's a great little war story dampened only by the ending.

Then we have Key Largo, a masterpiece of tension; again, Bogie shines as the tough independent outsider who won't let the bad guys fool him and saves the day. If To Have's ending fell flat, Key Largo ends with one of the best fights ever, where Bogie finally gets even with Edward G. Robinson. If you haven't had the pleasure, check it out right away.

So what's my third favorite hard-boiled Bogie film? The Maltese Falcon, of course, and there's nothing more I can say about that terrific movie that hasn't been said already.

I wish I could put Casablanca on this list. I love the movie. If I could pick a movie world to spend the rest of my days in, that would be the one. It's just right, despite one of the worst plot holes in film history that could have been corrected with a simple line change. But it doesn't even earn Honorable Mention, because in Casablanca, Bogie cries. Over a woman, no less. He even pounds on the bar with his fists! Gak! Sorry. Casablanca is out for that reason. Hard-Boiled Bogie does not cry.