Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview with Linda Pendleton, Indie Author Pioneer

I can’t describe what a treat it is to be able to present to you my next guest, who was kind enough to let me interview her about one of her novels.  Linda Pendleton is her name, and she has quite a resume behind her, and is probably one of the first in what we are now calling an "indie" author. More of that in a minute.

You could say that where I am now with my writing career is the fault of her husband, the late Don Pendleton, who wrote a series of books about a fellow named Mack Bolan.  Maybe you heard of him.  The series was called The Executioner and Pendleton wrote the first 38 books before turning the series over to ghost writers who continue to chronicle Bolan’s adventures.

Back in junior high and high school, the novels in my backpack were always James Bond, Mack Bolan, or some other adventure thriller—but mostly I carried Bolan around with me, because there were so many books in the series.  During a camping trip with my Boy Scout troop, one of the scout masters saw me reading a Bolan book and said, “I have a box of those back at the house. You can have them if you want.”  Of course I said yes, but I had no idea just what that box contained.  A few days later, I learned:  all 38 original books, in decent condition, plus a few of the ghosted books.  Let’s just say that every spare moment I had I used to read those books and at one point I went through one a day (I had an hour-long bus ride to school, each way, since I lived far from the campus, so that helped).  I still have that box of books and go through it from time to time.  Along with the work of Fleming and Ludlum, Don’s novels made me want to write my own stories.

Unfortunately I was never able to communicate with Don. I had just finished reading his Joe Copp private eye series when I decided it was probably time to send him a note, but just as I began my search to find an address, I learned that he had passed away. 

But Linda has carried on the Pendleton story telling tradition, and it’s a pleasure to be able to present to you this interview about her private eye novel, Shattered Lens. If you like your PI novels with the usual ingredients, this is your cup of tea, as Catherine Winter dives into a case involving the stalking of two models. You get a few twists along the way and a perspective you probably won't expect. It's a refreshing take on a genre that indeed needs refreshing. Read a sample and see for yourself. I enjoyed the book a lot.

As promised, here's more about Linda:

Linda Pendleton has written in a variety of genres: nonfiction, mystery novels, comic book scripting, e-courses, and screenplays.  She coauthored nonfiction and fiction with her late husband.    Together Don and Linda wrote the popular nonfiction books, To Dance With Angels and Whispers From the Souls, which explored their interest in metaphysics and spirituality.    

A native Californian, Linda is a member of The Authors Guild, The Authors League, EPIC Authors, and Sisters in Crime.  She was an EPIC Award Finalist in 2001 in the Thriller Category for the Novel, Roulette (previous title, One Dark and Stormy Night); 2002 EPIC Finalist in the Nonfiction Philosophy Category for Three Principles of Angelic Wisdom; and in 2011 is an EPIC Award Finalist in the mystery/suspense category for Shattered Lens: Catherine Winter, Private Investigator, and an EPIC Nonfiction Award Finalist for The Cosmic Breath: Metaphysical Essays of Don Pendleton, Introduction by Linda Pendleton.  Her novella, The Masquerading Cowboy received an award.       

Although most of her time is devoted to her love of writing, she also enjoys the exploration of her family’s genealogical roots. 

Linda’s website:

And now, the interview:

1)  Tell us about Shattered Lens.   What inspired the story?

Linda:  A few years ago, I had written the crime novel Roulette: The Search for the Sunrise Killer, with my husband, Don Pendleton.  I had very much enjoyed our female cop character, Rebecca Storme.  I had also enjoyed reading Don’s Joe Copp Private Eye Series while he was writing the six books, and I decided why not a female private investigator and one a little older with lots of experience under her belt.  So my Catherine Winter, Private Investigator was born.  

2) Authors often put aspects of their personality into their characters.  How much of Linda Pendleton is in Catherine Winter?

Linda:  Well, Brian, I want to say none but that is probably not so.  I believe a little of us always ends up in some way in our stories, even unintentionally or in subtle ways.  The things Catherine and I do have in common are we’re both curious and determined women, widows, and in our sixties.  I hope we share a sense of humor, too. 

3)  Your writing style and voice is very good—the opening scene is a real grabber, and the conversational tone of the narrative is a treat to read.  How long did you work to perfect your technique?

Linda:  Thank you for the compliment, Brian.  That’s always very nice to hear.  I have no idea how I have been able to achieve that.  Some time ago, even while writing nonfiction, I believe I found my “voice” and style and it seems to be reflected in nearly all my writing.  I have always considered my style “simple.”  I’ve been told that readers have found it easy and conversational.  

4)  If there was one storytelling technique that you learned from Don that nobody else has ever mentioned or used, what would that be?

Linda:  I learned so much about writing from Don.  He was a great teacher, not only about writing, but about life.  I do recall when he first critiqued one of my manuscripts he told me my writing was good but that I was holding back and needed to surrender and not be afraid to let it flow.  I also learned from Don to trust and have confidence in my ability to write.  Too often I would doubt myself, and he would tell me to trust that it was good.  I still find myself questioning, although much less than I did twenty years ago.  I’m proud of my work and I know he looks over my shoulder and still gives me inspiration. 

5)  Will we see Catherine Winter again?

Linda:  Yes, I’ve nearly completed the second Catherine Winter novel.  I hope to publish it within the next two months.  Her story, again, is set in Southern California.  When I had decided to write Shattered Lens in first person as many private eye novels are written, I wasn’t sure how it would go as it can be somewhat more difficult to write than third person viewpoint.  But I soon felt comfortable with the format.  My friend, the late Richard S. Prather, author of the best selling Shell Scott Mystery series, read my manuscript and gave me a very nice cover quote and encouraged me to consider writing a series with Catherine Winter.  I did enjoy working with Catherine so decided to write a second novel.  I suppose there could be additional novels in the future but I have no plans to write one for each letter in the alphabet or even the months in a year.  :-)

6) Do you enjoy being an “indie” author?

Linda:  Yes, I do.  I enjoy the freedom of being able to publish without having to ask “permission.”  There are numerous authors who write quality works and are unable to find an agent who is enthusiastic about selling their manuscript or a publisher who is willing to take a look at their work.  Today, authors have new opportunities to self-publish print on demand and ebooks through Amazon, Createspace, Kindle, and Smashwords, and it is an exciting time.   

I’ve been self-publishing, which includes ebooks, for ten years now.  The opportunity for me began when the Authors Guild offered a back-in-print program and as a member of the Authors Guild (as Don was, too) I was able to put Don’s Joe Copp Private Eye Series and his Ashton Ford Psychic Detective Series in print as PODs and ebooks.  And then along came Kindle.  So I put the two series in Kindle as I did several additional books.  My web designer, Judy Bullard is my cover designer for POD and ebooks, and I format the books myself.   That all takes time away from writing but I feel it is worth it.

I have those novels and other books, fiction and nonfiction, also at Smashwords which distributes to the retailers for the Nook, iPad, Kobo, Diesel and others.  I love the up-to-the-minute royalty reports we get from Amazon’s Kindle, and the royalty rates we receive from Amazon and Smashwords.  Sure beats what any traditional publisher is paying for ebook rights.   

Over the last couple of years I did feel a little disturbed that these new opportunities seemed to be opposed by several author organizations, some successful authors, and apparently by agents and the big 6 NY publishers.  Many of those people put-down self-published works, calling them inferior and not of good quality.  Many agents are not interested in looking at manuscripts by authors who have self-published, and that is really too bad as they are missing out on some good books.  It appears a number of those authors who spoke out in opposition to what some of us were doing, are now very happy to be self-publishing their back lists and/or new books at Kindle and Smashwords.

Now I just smile, as a number of years ago I wrote articles about the pros and cons of self-publishing and ebooks and how it would soon be acceptable and common.  Nearly a decade later ebooks have arrived.  And they’re not going away,  whether they are read on a handheld device or on a computer monitor, and sales seem to be showing ebooks are now out-selling print books.    

I don’t believe print books are going away but there are definitely other choices for a reader as well as an author.      

7)  Do you have one or two other books you’d like to mention?

My historical novel, Corn Silk Days, Iowa, 1862 is my latest novel and is both in print and Kindle.  I love the book.  It’s based on the Civil War letters of my great-great grandfather, who served as a Union soldier.  It is the story of four generations of two families.  Other than staying true to his letters written to my great-great grandmother and the historical facts of the time, the story is fiction.  I loved writing it and am proud of it.    

The Dawning, my novel of mystery and suspense, has been published for some time now but the story of UFOs, government cover-up, and the paranormal, continues to be of interest to readers.

And for a change of pace, I just published at Kindle, Soul Expressions: Poetry Collection of Linda Pendleton and Don Pendleton.  I hope to have it in print before too long.

I have a number of non-fiction books and they can all be found on my website or at my Amazon author page. 

Brian, I want to thank you for this opportunity to do this interview. 
my website,

Amazon Author Page

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bringing Back the Dead, or: Those Old Novels Aren't Really Bad, Are They?

My friend and fellow author Rebecca Forster is uploading her impressive backlist to the Kindle Store, and is currently going through some of her earliest romance novels to add to the list. She's learned a lot over the last 25 years, so hearing her commentary about her old books has been interesting. She would change a lot, of course, but she's not doing a heavy edit--she wants to respect the writer she was at the time. She inspired me to go back to some of my old books to see if there's anything worth salvaging. I hadn't thought to do so before because I didn't think there was any there there, if you know what I mean, and my apologies to Ms. Stein. Why? I'll get to that in a minute. And if you pay attention, you may learn something.

There are four books I'm looking at, but this article concerns what I'm editing now, Bullet for One, a private eye revenge thriller I wrote and rewrote between 1999-2001. This was a very personal story for me at the time, as it was my first attempt at a crime novel after taking a whirlwind tour through the hard-boiled canon the year prior to starting the book. Never mind the plot. It's simpler to say it's an I, the Jury riff but I tried to do my own thing with it.

Of course, it has flaws. There is a lot of overwriting, and a lot of needless words and description, but that is easily fixed. What I was afraid of, though, was a serious lack of characterization, and one-dimensional characters as a whole. I didn't know much about characterization in 1999-2001. I just wrote stuff. The characters were alive to me, but I was knocked over when another writer friend said the characters did nothing for him and seemed lifeless.

I stopped writing for a bit after that and learned everything I could about how to bring a character to life. I think those lessons have served my recent work very well.


Going back through BfO, I'm noticing a few things. Characters are described. They have set behavior patterns. Outside stories (related to the main plot) and inside stories (their own personal story arcs). It's simple characterization. They're types, they exist to do specific things, but I don't see anything wrong with that. You could make the case that my three novels already on Kindle have the same sort of characterization. But as I'm reading the manuscript I find myself wondering what my friend actually read, because it appears he wasn't reading my book. Either that, or he has a different idea of what characterization is than I do.

I'm not suggesting there isn't room for improvement, and that's what my current edit is for. And I'm not sorry I stopped writing for a few months while I learned the craft a little better. That process didn't hurt, and if I knew then what I know now, I could have raised reasonable doubt about the critique. But what I think you need to learn, as I just have, is that one person's opinion does not mean a work is inferior or unworthy of a reader's time. A manuscript is not a sculpture carved from rock, wherein you must start over with a new rock if you make a mistake. Manuscripts can be fixed--easily--either through editing or a total rewrite. But BfO does not warrant a rewrite. It just needs a little massaging.

I think my friend was wrong. It's a good book, and the characters are not lifeless. And when I'm done, it will be a better book. And you'll get to see just how good it is when I release it in a few months.

If you have somebody read your stuff, have two or three people do it. Don't live or die by the approval of one person.

I think Stephen King made the same point in On Writing, which I read a long time ago when it first came out....

But I must not have paid attention.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brian Drake Invades the UK!

I thought I would share some good news with you. It certainly has me excited! Yesterday on my Amazon royalty page I saw that I now have readers in the UK! For months my UK sales have been ZERO (I checked now and then) but yesterday I was stunned to see that copies of Justified Sins and Show No Mercy had been purchased. Back in high school the principal, because I got into trouble so much, used to tell me I was a bad influence on the other students; now I sell books internationally and I get to be a bad influence on people all over the world!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Adventures of Philip Marlowe on the Air

Some of you think I was way too harsh on the CBS old time radio series The Adventures of Philip Marlowe when I wrote a week or so ago about the Richard Diamond series. You're right. But I was harsh on the character, not the show. 

Gerald Mohr
Marlowe as a fictional character is terrific. I've always seen him as an isolationist who doesn't care for or need other people around him. This is a thematic element that works perfectly in the novels, because Chandler wrote him as a knight in a world of corruption. You'd want to be alone too if you had to wade in and out of that garbage! But that theme did not translate to the radio series. The writers didn't get it, so as a character Marlowe falls a little short. (Marlowe had the same problems in the films--the poor guy has never been fully understood!)

However, I think that The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, from a technical and writing stand point, set a standard of quality that very few OTR private detective shows could reach.

The sound effects, music, actor voices, even the announcer, blended together in such a way that we were given a true "noir" radio show. I think the music is some of the best with that low saxophone-based theme. Gerald Mohr, with his voice of gravel, who played Marlowe, added another element with his weekly introduction:

Get this and get it straight, crime is a suckers road and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison or the grave. There's no other end; but they never learn.

Simply typing those words doesn't give the intro justice. You must hear Mohr's delivery, followed by the musical blast that follows.

Gerald Mohr is, I think, the definitive radio voice of Marlowe. He sounds absolutely wonderful. (Mohr also played Archie Goodwin in the Nero Wolfe show beside Sidney Greenstreet for a few episodes.) He missed a day of work now and then, so in a few episodes you'll hear other guys, including William Conrad, but none of them had Mohr's spark. 

It's easy to be so overwhelmed by the production quality of the Marlowe show that you can make the case that saying it's inferior to another show isn't a valid criticism; that's not what I was saying last time when I crowned Richard Diamond the best of the OTR private detectives. From the production quality side, Marlowe beats 'em all; from a character stand point, I still give the tip to Richard Diamond. Diamond is the more satisfying show to listen to. Marlowe is just another thriller. A very well-produced thriller. I'm listening to an episode right now!

Don't worry, Phil, I'll only travel that "sucker's road" in my books!

Of course typing this makes me think of the BBC audio adaptations of the Marlowe novels. Have you heard those? I'll talk about them soon....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Richard Diamond, Private Detective.....Best OTR Private Eye?

Is there a consensus on the best old time radio private eye shows? How many have you sampled? I've listened to a ton. Some are good. Some are terrible. One of the best, I think, is Richard Diamond, Private Detective, which starred Dick Powell. How do I claim it's one of the best in competition that includes Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, and The Adventures of Sam Spade? Simple, really. Richard Diamond mixes hard-boiled action with comedy, offers a large group of characters you can enjoy, and has a number of recurring gags that never fail to entertain.

Johnny Dollar is at his best near the end of the series in the five-part, 15-minute episodes which star Bob Bailey. Marlowe is way too serious. Spade never makes a lick of sense--the shows are completely incoherent. But Richard Diamond has good stories and makes you laugh. You can't beat it.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Diamond suffers from the same flaw that other private eye dramas of the time share, in that the private eye is always smarter than the cops in such an unrealistic way that it's insulting. Then there is how they describe the discovery of a dead body:

"We found him in the alley. He's been shot, stabbed, clubbed over the head, and poisoned. He's dead."

Cue the dramatic music.

At the end of each episode, Diamond visits his girlfriend. They chat a bit and then he sings a song. I guess Powell was known for his singing at the time, but during his adventures he gets shot at, kicked, and knocked unconscious. Are we really expected to believe that after all of that punishment, he can sing like nothing happened?

Oh, well. It's good clean fun.

I don't dislike the other shows I mentioned, but they lack the community that Diamond has. Richard Diamond feels real because he has friends. Marlowe? Isolated. Lives in a bubble. Spade and Dollar? They mostly mix with clients and thugs and we never see their personal lives. Diamond has the right balance of everything.

Give him a listen if you haven't had the opportunity. Dick Powell is perfect in the role; he even played Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet, which is one of the great post-war noir films. And if you want another Dick Powell detective show that's just as good as Richard Diamond, check out Rogue's Gallery. But that's a subject for another time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Show No Mercy--Available NOW!

I am pleased to announce the release of Show No Mercy: A Michael Dodge Thriller. This is my third ebook and one I almost didn't want to finish, but that's a story for another time. Here's the story description which is sure to catch your interest:

"Could you kill your father?

Michael Dodge owes Harry Ames, his surrogate father. But his CIA mentor is accused of murdering a comrade and joining forces with an enemy planning to unleash a lethal biological weapon on the United States. Dodge may have to kill Harry, but can he do it?"

You can click the cover photo on the right to see the Amazon page; thank you for looking. I hope you enjoy it! I'll be embarking on an extensive "blog tour" to promote the book so you'll see me pretty much everywhere... you'll get sick of me!