One Bite at a Time




Monday, September 30, 2013

Beer and Roaming in Albany, Postscript

And so ends another Bouchercon. Personally, a success. I had a great time, made new friends (as always; that what Bouchercons are for), re-acquainted myself with some old friends (also what Bouchercons are for), “discovered” new writers I want to look into in more detail (what Bouchercon is for from a reader’s perspective), and became re-energized about my own writing (what Bouchercons are for from a writer’s perspective).

I was assigned to a great panel that lived up to its promise, and was well received at an author’s choice event. I learned several things I can’t wait to incorporate into my own writing, and validated a few things I’d wondered about I can now use with a clear conscience.

The dispersed conference was a nuisance, but not so much it spoiled anything. The shuttles ran frequently and quickly, though it did make returning to my room for any forgotten items (such as a nap) difficult during the times the shuttles did not run. Walking to the hotel was easy; walking back to the conference was not. (Little known fact: “Albany” is an Iroquois word meaning “There is no San Francisco yet, but these hills will wear your ass out until there is.”) The fact the food court in the conference center was closed on Saturday could have been worked around a little better, but barbecue from the truck outside was quite tasty; sucked to be you if you didn’t find it before the line grew too long.

Maybe it was because the Hilton wasn’t the official host hotel, and it’s bar was the unofficial official meeting place, but the service there left a lot to be desired, especially compared to last year in Cleveland. On the other hand, I didn’t meet a single person in Albany who was less than engaging and genuinely friendly. The wait staff I encountered in Monk’s, Legends, and the Hollow weren’t content to be competent and courteous; they were fun.

The same thing that always makes a Bouchercon successful was present here, too: the people. Many thanks to (alphabetically) Eric Beetner, James Benn, Reed Farrel Coleman, Mike Dennis, Jacques Filippi, Terrence and Rita McCauley, John McFetridge, Rick Ollerman, Tim O’Mara, Absolutely Kate Pilarcik, Todd “Big Daddy Thug” Robinson, Peter Rozovsky, Robin Spano, Holly West, Jonathan Woods, and various other folks whose names I didn’t catch who made it a pleasure for this introvert to spend time with other people.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breaking News

Two—count ‘em, two—pre-release reviews of Grind Joint are now available at Amazon, with five stars each. Check them out on Grind Joint’s Amazon page.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bear and Roaming in Albany, Day Three

Saturday, September 21

9:00 (That’s right, nine in the morning) Big Man on Mulberry Street: Creating the perfect villain

This panel hit the ground running. None were of the “criminal mastermind/serial killer” school of villainy. Steve Hamilton called out Mags Bennett from Season 2 of Justified as the perfect villain. She poisons a man for talking to the police, then adopts his daughter, going so far as to side against her own sons to protect the girl.

Noteworthy comments came too fast for my note taking skills to keep up. Among the more memorable ideas expressed:

Every villain is the hero of his own story.

The panel’s consensus, first expressed by moderator Barbara Fister, is that the serial killer/dogged detective genre may have run its course. A lot of people are sick to death of them. (Me, for one.)

Joe Lansdale pointed out that villains are not made notable because they have an eye patch or a wooden leg, but by how they feel about having an eye patch or a wooden leg. Two books he recommends: They Don’t Dance Much, by James Ross; You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up, by Richard Hallas. (One of the great titles of all time.)

John McFetridge said most criminals understand they’re breaking the law, but they think of laws as being temporary. He noted the now-respectable fortunes made by Canadian alcoholic companies smuggling whisky and beer into the United States during Prohibition.

John also has a great idea to get all the James Bond villains together to write a book about how to succeed in nefarious enterprises. Rule Number One: Don’t tell Bond your plan.

10:20 You May Be Right: Law enforcement and crime fiction—serve, protect, and entertain

Moderator Colin Campbell ran the session as a mock interrogation and his panel was up to the task. He began by asking if anyone was faint of heart, upset by graphic descriptions, or offended by foul language, then told them they could fuck off right now.

Former New York detective Robert Knightley gave it to us straight:

· Cops are evaluated by how quickly they can get a confession. Means and method are secondary.

· In New York, they don’t bring in the video camera until everything has been agreed upon; they’re taping a performance, not an interrogation. The real work was done off camera. He’d been involved in interrogations that ran in shifts, going on so long one set of cops goes home for some sleep and their replacements are still at it when the original cops return.

· CSI evidence is nice, but it works best with a confession.

Something too many writers get wrong: suspects do not have to be read their Miranda warning upon arrest. It’s only when the police are about to ask questions. Patrol officers are sometimes told never to Mirandize suspects; leave that for the detectives, who may try to dance around it.

Tim O’Mara, the only non-cop on the panel—he does have cops in th family—had several entertaining tales of how life as a New York schoolteacher isn’t always mush differen from life as a cop, though his solutions to the resulting incidents were much different. And entertaining.

Connie Dial said she was rarely cursed at by a criminal without receiving an unsolicited apology.

The writers’ most frustrating inaccuracies in books and scripts:

· Calling for an ambulance instead of the medical examiner for an obviously dead body.

· Detectives working alone in situations where they clearly would not.

· Cops saying they’re “on the job.” Cops only say that when they’re pulled over for speeding.

· Unlike in Law & Order, people do not continue what they’re doing when police question them.

When asked by an audience member what police do when they find a false confession, Knightley replied there are no false confessions from their point of view. Once the guy confesses, they’re done with him; the case is closed. He also strongly recommended Ken Burns’s latest documentary, The Central Park Five, about the 1989 case of the Central Park jogger who was raped and murdered in an alleged “wilding” incident.

12:30 Famous Last Words: Writing multiple series/ending a series

Max Allan Collins began with the final word on when to definitively end a series: the publisher doesn’t want any more. Collins spoke of continuing and ending Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series, at the behest of Hammer, with whom he worked closely late in Spillane’s life. (I was shocked to learn Spillane wrote only thirteen Mike Hammer novels; Collins has completed six more that Spillane had begun, thus completing the series.)

As might be expected, there was discussion about continuing a series someone else had started. Collins didn’t feel that was what he had done with Spillane, as Spillane had started all of the books Collins completed. He also didn’t see anything wrong with writers picking up where dead authors left off.

Reed Farrel Coleman is finishing his Moe Prager series, but also went back to write a Moe prequel. His money quote in setting stories in the past—in his case the late 60s—was not to take the easy way out and give everyone long hair, tie-dyed shirts, and bell bottoms. The great majority of people in every time period—well over 90%--get up every morning and go to work.

Laurie King named Josephine Tey as her most influential writer prior to 1995. I’ve been tripping over Tey references since I read Books to Die For; I need to track her down. (Congratulations to good friend Declan Burke and John Connolly for winning an Anthony for BTDF.)

2:30 Noir at the Bar

Well, sort of. Eric Beetner hosted a speed dating version of the popular series, giving each author one minute to read enough of his or her work to make the audience want to read more. All succeeded, though few so well as Les Edgerton with his fifteen-second poem. There was plenty of talent in the room to hold a crowd without the book giveaways, but giving away books is always a cool thing. A little hurried, but a rousing success, even though high winds caused the cancellation of the much-anticipated human sacrifices.

3:30 Terrence McCauley (with guest game show host Todd “Big Daddy Thug” Robinson)

Terrence picked up where Noir at the Bar left off, literally, re-convening half an hour later to continue the readings. This time was more of a slam, with anyone who had something to read encouraged to do so. Todd Robinson broke things up by awarding free books to anyone who could correctly answer Thuglit trivia questions. The talent level was considerable here—both for writing and trivia—and my copy of Todd’s short story collection, Dirty Words, will remind me we’ll always have Albany. (My correct answer: What was the UK title of Stuart Neville’s Ghosts of Belfast? The Twelve.}

Enormous thanks are due to Terrence McCauley for enticing most of his hard-earned crowd to stay for what had potential to be a drone-a-thon, a one-sided “discussion” of the modern relevance of Raymond Chandler’s ideal hero. The time and attention devoted by the audience are much appreciated.

Dinner: The Beloved Spouse returned from a family visit to make a good weekend even better, accompanying John McFetridge, Rick Ollerman, Jacques Filippi, and myself to The Hollow, where I had a bacon cheeseburger with egg yet again, though this time the egg was over easy. As was I, by that time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pennsylvania Man’s Tastes Get Him Into Trouble

Mike Adams, born Michael Adamski when Penns River still had a hospital; a/k/a Mike the Fence, Mike the Kike (for the small shylock business he ran on the side), and White Mike (to distinguish him from Black Mike, also a fence). Five-foot-ten, one-eighty. Worked more or less full-time as a bartender at Fat Jimmy’s, where Jimmy let him conduct business, so long as no cash or merchandise changed hands, and no drugs. His day off, so he ran errands and made collections. Home for a shower, then out to see if Luann Czekalski would make an appearance at Ricki’s Lime. With luck, bring her home and show off his new tattoo.

A hundred yards from his house he saw the light bars. Two Penns River patrol units, plus one unmarked. Two uniformed cops with their thumbs up their asses between the cars and his front door. Another uniform and two plainclothes coming and going from the unmarked to the house. Mike had seen search warrants served before. He drove by, never turned his head to look.

He had his Go bag in the trunk. Eight grand in tens, twenties, and fifties he collected and banded himself; no bank straps. An ID he bought in New York that came with a number prospective employers could call for a job reference, one call per ID. Fancied himself the incarnation of DeNiro in the movie Heat. “Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in thirty seconds flat.” Mike beat Bobby D by at least twenty seconds.

Almost stopped at Glen’s on Leechburg Road for frozen custard. Best ice cream in the world, even better than the Wisconsin Dells, where Mike made a detour during his long-haul trucking days just to try it. One last large Flavor of the Day would have been nice. Too risky. That self-righteous detective asshole—Dougherty?—knew about Mike’s ice cream jones, probably had someone there already.

Mike knew a guy in Chicago, said he could set him up in Rockford, and the way to get there was the PA Turnpike to I-80, then I-90. Eight, nine hours, depending on traffic. Nearest Turnpike interchange in Harmarville, next to Cheswick, home of the original Glen’s. Mike doubted Penns River would call neighboring jurisdictions to look for him. Or, he would have doubted it if he thought they wanted him for fencing or juice.

Jimmy had warned him not to mention the meth package at work. “Don’t even let on you have something else going,” how he said it. Jimmy tolerated what he called “victimless crimes” in his bar. He didn’t care who used drugs, so long as they didn’t use or sell on the premises and paid their tabs. No bones about it: Jimmy wasn’t losing his license so some toothless tweaker could ride a high.

The thing with Jimmy, he wasn’t so tolerant and open-minded he wouldn’t drop a dime if warnings went unheeded. The bent guys let him get away with it because Fat Jimmy’s worked so well as a clearinghouse to make connections; they told complainers not to shit where they ate, make their transactions elsewhere. The cops ignored the criminal element because he’d dish for the proper occasion. The sophomore at Penn State Penns River who ODed on speed from the package Mike brokered made for a borderline occasion; him dying pushed it over the line into a fucking Orthodox wedding. Mike assumed his warrant had Jimmy’s CI number on it.

Mike didn’t remember if he’d ever mentioned this Rockford thing to Jimmy. If he had, the cops might figure he’d go there, and the quickest way was through Harmarville.

So, no Glen’s.

He still had to get to Chicago, which meant I-80. Mike doubted they’d post a BOLO across state lines. Even if they did, the odds of a cop from Ohio or points west spotting this one car were slim and less than slim, if he behaved himself. PA-28 north would take him to 80 in Brookville. Mike took back roads through the Flats, the 356 bypass past Leechburg and hooked up with 28 the other side of Freeport.

Jordan’s Soft Serve never entered his mind until the expressway ended outside Kittanning and reminded him. Stopped there all the time coming back from his uncle’s camp in East Brady. No more than a mile from where he was, quick in and out, then on his way. Fifteen minutes, tops. Made the small detour past the par three golf course and parked along the side, next to an SUV that hid his car from the street.

A cop drove past as Mike came around the front of Jordan’s. He hesitated—almost went back—shook it off. This wasn’t even the metropolis of Kittanning, population 4,000; this was West Kittanning. A thousand people and two cops, tops. Town this size, a cop probably drove by once an hour.

Ordered a large chocolate cone, took a lick. Depending on his mood, this was as good as Glen’s. No cops in sight when he stepped out the door. Turned the corner back to his car, licking around the edge of the cone. Had his keys out, lock fob in his hand, when he passed the SUV and saw the West Kittanning cop leaning against Mike’s driver side door, his police car blocking any exit. Two state troopers rested on their own cars behind him.

The local cop smiled. “Mike Adamski, right?” Mike stared and swallowed. Took another lick. “Detective Dougherty in Penns River said you might stop here. He told me to let you finish your cone. Said the next one’s going to be a while.”

Beer and Roaming in Albany, Part Two

Friday, September 20

10:20 Goodnight, My Angel: Hard-boiled, noir, and the reader’s love affair with both.

For some reason I have no notes on this panel. I know I was there. I’d ask around, but Reed Farrel Coleman was moderating a panel on “The New Noir” with Hilary Davidson, Dick Lochte, John Rector, Todd Robinson, Jason Starr, and Duane Swierczynski at the same time, which siphoned off a lot of people I might otherwise have asked. Peter Rozovsky might know; he’s good about keeping up with stuff like that.

12:30 Until the Night: The art of writing the PI novel

PI pull me in the way road kill attracts a crow, especially with an A List moderator like Ali Karim, and one of my favorite PI writers (Jack Bludis) on the agenda. All of the writers had at least been nominated for a Shamus, and the audience was full of their peers. Definitely a meat and potatoes group in their tastes, citing Chandler, Hammett, John D. Macdonald, and Robert Parker among their primary influences. Baron Birtcher and Charles Salzman stood out to me as needing further investigation. The all-male panel gave props to standout female PI writers, notably Sara Paretsky and Julie Smith.

Funniest moment (at least for me) came when Baron Birtcher—who bears more than a passing resemblance to The Dude—made a comment that incorporated The Eagles when discussing the pros and cons of continuing series begun by others. Each writer had his own perspective. Most said they’d at least consider it, though they all made mention of pitfalls to be aware of.

1:50 Entertainer: Keeping the reader’s attention

Never borrow a coin from Terrence McCauley if you need it to decide which panel to attend. I lasted ten minutes in the room where his dime sent me—no, I’m not going to name the panel—before ending up standing near the back while Catriona McPherson led this group through a thoroughly enjoyable session. Standout moments came from Simon Wood, who, when asked to come up with a name for a badly conceived character, proposed “Jose Cuervo, MD.” Russell McLean told a great tale of finding the leather mask of a woman’s face attached to a closet wall in his new home, along with a note warning them not to remove it, and noting the McLeans were the fifth family to receive it. If you’re ever in doubt as to which panel to attend and Catriona McPherson is one of the moderators, don’t bother tossing a coin.

3:10 A Matter of Trust: Is all fair when it comes to keeping the reader guessing?

Maybe the best panel I saw. Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, and the third author whose name I didn’t catch (either Jennifer McMahon or Lori Roy; one was absent the I was too far back to read the name cards) clearly knew and liked each other. Moderator Clair Lamb knew to kick off a topic and stand back to let the three talk among themselves. Informative, insightful, and laugh out loud funny.

Highlights:

Using a child’s point of view allows you to build suspense because the reader inherently when something that makes perfect sense to the character is a really bad idea.

Laura Lippman notes the only truly reliable narrators are the dead (Sunset Boulevard), and those who are confessing (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice). Everyone else has their own perspectives and potential axes to grind.

Lippman considers the Hannibal Lector stories to be cozies in their way, as deep down everyone knows the chances of meeting such a man are nil. The stories that scare her are everyday things that might happen in her Baltimore neighborhood.

Everyone agreed that among the primary enticements of crime fiction is getting the reader to wonder what he or she would do in a similar situation. We all like to think we’d make better decisions, but would we cover up evidence of a crime our child had committed?

* * *

I kidded above, but it’s hard to imagine having more fun than I did in the 10:20 panel moderated. Peter Rozovsky ran the usual entertaining and informative operation, and Eric Beetner, Mike Dennis, Terrence McCauley, and Jonathan Woods were up to every challenge. I don’t know how panels are picked (stay tuned for interviews over the next few weeks that delve into that), but I’m grateful to whoever put me in with that fine and talented group.

The day concluded with the Three Ds of Bouchercon: Dining, Drinking, and Debauchery.

Dinner: Back to Legends for another Breakfast burger. Why else do I take those statins?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beer and Roaming in Albany, Day One

Beer and Bouchercon go without explanation; “roaming” has to do with what one can only how was an experiment, the first Bouchercon anyone knows of where there was no “host” hotel. Logistical issues ensued—nap times were greatly curtailed—and the food court that provided the only truly convenient means of sustenance was closed on Saturday. People were roaming around Albany for various reasons.

Some have the energy to practically live blog Bouchercons, posting at least once a day; I envy them. I admire them. Time was when I would want to be them and would try to keep up.

I was so cute then.

Here at OBAAT, we’ll go over my notes a week later and a day at the time. If you don’t like it, please feel free to ask for your subscription fees back.

(Editor’s Note: I will make note from time to time of authors who made their way onto my To Be Read list after seeing them on panels. No offense is meant to those who are not mentioned. I sincerely did not listen to an author all week who made me think, “I’m not reading any of his shit.” Some stuck out and were added; some were already on the list.)

Thursday, September 19

12:00 Tell Her About It—Promotion: how do you know if it’s too much or too little?

What struck me most was how often panelists returned to the theme of working to make the author interesting, rather than directly flogging the book. This made resonated with me, as I discovered at least half of the writers I follow based on reading blog posts and interviews. What they said—and how they said it—appealed to me, so I investigated further. Using this as my sole research, I have tried the same approach, using this blog and Facebook as my primary promotional avenues. Not taking this too literally, but it was nice to get some validation I wasn’t completely off the mark.

Joelle Charbonneau took a position contrary to the traditional “all publicity is good publicity,” telling of turning down interview requests that arose after a piece she wrote on a controversial issue appeared in The Daily Beast. She had no trouble with TDB running her article; she knew what to expect. She declined interviews, as she did not know want to expect, and had no desire to become part of the story herself. This prompted a spirited discussion about whether such requests should be accepted, regardless of any perceived risks.

Getting people to request your book at the local library can result in more sales than you might think.

Be careful when using social media. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. You must come across as genuine; people won’t buy a phony’s books. Sure, it’s fiction; they expect you to make things up. No one likes to be lied to.

3:00 Author’s Choice—Robin Spano: Using life in fiction

Robin Spano, Hilary Davidson, and a gentleman whose name I can’t read in my notes led an entertaining interactive discussion about how things that happened to them worked—or wormed—their way in stories. (If anyone reading this has the name of my mystery panelist, please add it in comments and I’ll make the correction.) Hilary told a chilling story of a co-worker who disappeared on a business trip to Mexico, and how it provided the basis of her novel Evil in All Its Disguises.

This was one of those sessions that make Bouchercon worth going to. I had heard of Hilary, of course—I don’t spend all my time under rocks—but listening to her talk about how she used this story without overtly plugging the book got me to add her to my To Be Read list. (I was lucky enough to meet Hilary for a few minutes before the panel. Yeah, she is as nice as they say, one of those people who meets you for the first time, says hello, and you have the feeling she’s been waiting all day for this.)

I turned around to hear a comment and found Jack Getze sitting directly behind me. I’ve known Jack online for years, and thoroughly enjoy his Austin Carr series. Our first conversation went something like this:

Me: Jack Getze? I’m Dana King.

Jack: Dana! Wow. You don’t look at all like I expected.

Me: You thought I’d be younger, didn’t you?

Jack: Yeah, actually.

4:00 The Siegfried Line—WWII and Sons Offspring

Peter’s panels are always worth going to, even if the topic doesn’t seem like a grabber. This panel had me from the buildup, as criminal behavior during war time is a fascinating topic on multiple levels. All the authors had interesting takes and different perspectives, from a young officer on Eisenhower’s staff at SHAEF, to American forces in Korea during the 70s to members of the Sûreté and Gestapo working together to solve murders in occupied France. I could write a page on this panel alone, but became too engrossed to take worthwhile notes. Suffice to say James Benn, John Lawton, and Martin Limon made their way onto the TBR list.

I signed my first author’s autograph when I met Michelle Isler and her husband Tommy at the evening reception. Michelle is an avid reader and supporter of crime fiction in general, and has been very kind and enthusiastic in her support of my books. It was a treat to meet both of them and hope to see them again.

In addition to Michelle ad Tommy, I had a discussion with Walter Colby, a reader attending his first Bouchercon. Walter was great company, and, in a moment of weakness, consented to be interviewed about his impressions when things settle down.

Dinner was a Breakfast Burger at Legends sports bar: a hamburger topped with bacon, cheese, and scrambled egg. (Peter Rozovsky asked if I’d ordered a side of cholesterol.) Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Tomorrow: Peter Rozovsky and four new friends carry me through a panel.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Here it Is: The Final Bouchercon 2013 Promotional Announcement. You’re Welcome.

This is likely the only blog post this week. Tomorrow morning The Beloved Spouse and I leave for Bouchercon. We’ll spend Tuesday night with relatives before heading on to Albany. I may post from the conference if the planets align, but I’m there to attend, not to post; a full compendium of my activities will be provided next week. (Discretely redacted, as necessary.)

If you’re in the area, I’ll be part of two events:

Friday, September 20 at 10:20 in Room 2: “Goodnight, My Angel: Hard-boiled, Noir and the Reader's Love Affair With Both.” The moderator is Peter Rozovsky, of the award-winning blog Detectives Beyond Borders. The panelists are Eric Beetner, Mike Dennis, Terrence McCauley, and Jonathan Woods.

Saturday, September 21 at 4:00 in Room 5: “Is Chandler’s Concept of the Ideal Hero Still Relevant?” I have some comments prepared, but what I’m really hoping for is a discussion. Maybe an argument. A minor fistfight is okay, but no weapons, please.

If you’re in Albany and can’t make either event, please feel free to catch me in the hall or at the bar and say hello. Putting a face to a commenter’s name, or shaking the hand of someone who reads but does not comment is always fun.

See you there.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bouchercon Panelist Mike Dennis

I’ve read and enjoyed Mike Dennis’s work for several years now. Setup on Front Street could be taught as part of a course on how to match style to story in the hard-boiled idiom; “The Session” is one of a handful of my favorite short stories. As fate would have it, a week before we learned we’d be on Peter Rozovsky’s “Hard-boiled, Noir and the Reader's Love Affair With Both” panel at Bouchercon next week, I downloaded Mike’s first novel. The Take is a noir story in the classic sense, with a variation of the femme fatale and an ending both shocking and inevitable. Mike was kind enough to answer some questions before we meet up in Albany.

One Bite at a Time: You and I have known each other—online, at least—for a while now, so I know a fair amount about you. (Which, for reasonable financial considerations, can remain private.) Catch up those who are late to the party: who is Mike Dennis?

Mike Dennis: Right, Dana. Just email me your account number in the Caymans.
I’m just a guy who played music (piano) for a living for thirty years, and then turned respectable by becoming a professional poker player. I did that for five or six years until a publisher picked up The Take, which was my first published novel. This event forced me to quit poker and cross back to the other side, since I needed to develop a promotional mechanism and write all the books that were struggling to get out of my head.
Back in December, I married my lovely wife Yleana in an evening rooftop ceremony in Havana, Cuba.

OBAAT: Interviewing you about The Take is tricky, as almost everything I’d like to ask you is a potential spoiler. Lots of twists, all of them prepared so they don’t come quite as the reader expects, but aren’t out of the blue, either. Did you outline, or make everything up as you went?

MD: I don’t outline. And by that, I mean I honestly can’t make up stories. I begin my novels on the flimsiest of premises and the characters tell me where they want me to take them. I usually have nothing more than an opening sentence, or a hazy notion of a character, sometimes just a title. The Take emerged altogether from two lines of the Marty Robbins classic song, El Paso. One of the characters actually sings the lines somewhere in the book.

OBAAT: My usual peeve with stories that unfold as The Take does is the protagonists, confronted with several options at key points of the story, always make the exact worst decision possible; makes them hard to root for. Eddie never does that. His decisions aren’t perfect—some are pretty clever at the time he makes them—but the potential ramifications aren’t always thought through. Did this come easy to you, or were you aware of the convenience of protagonists who are too stupid to sympathize with and made a conscious effort to stay away?

MD: I never operate on such a grand scale of awareness. With all my central characters, I try to get inside their skins and let them behave as they normally would. Once I see them as living, breathing people, everything flows from there. The dialogue, their decisions, everything. Keeping in mind that Eddie is a true noir character, he’s going to make some bad decisions along the way, but they are decisions that fit his circumstances at the moment, because he doesn’t really see beyond the moment.
I would like to address your point of rooting for central characters. You know that most of mine are criminals, some of them very crude and violent. But you can root for every one of them. Not because I’m such a great writer, but because they are real people. Or rather, fictional people whom I have shown to be real by, as I said earlier, getting inside them and bringing out their humanity. People who have often been pushed around until they’re pushed too far. Everyone can relate to that.
That’s the beauty of noir. It mirrors the human condition.

OBAAT: The Take moves along as a noir story of a man in trouble who makes decisions that seem fine at the time—given a certain criminal mentality—but kept getting him in deeper and deeper. Then, near the end, Quentin Tarantino shows up for as violent an ending as I’ve seen in a while. Like everything else, the reader sees the clouds gathering, but the impact is still considerable when it plays out. Was that always the plan, or were particularly bloodthirsty that day?

MD That climax just happened as I was writing it. As I mentioned earlier, I just drift along, letting the characters dictate their own actions. The scene in the gas station, however, I had thought up while I was about halfway through the book.

OBAAT: Felina is not a classic femme fatale. Sure, she oozes sex appeal, and is clearly out to make the best deal she can for herself, but she is not the instigator, and spends more time throughout the book reacting than acting, though she’s quick-witted and ruthless when opportunity presents. Tell us a little of how she evolved in your mind.

MD: She came from the same well that inspired the novel:

Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina

Wicked and evil while casting a spell

My love was deep for this Mexican maiden

I was in love but in vain I could tell

She sprang fully formed from those lyrics (from the Marty Robbins song), and baby, that’s noir!!

OBAAT: When the movie is made, who would you cast as Eddie? Felina? Linda? (Old and dead actors can be used.

MD: Well, if this movie ever gets made, the actors are undoubtedly still in grade school at present. As for older actors, I just can’t say. I don’t really think about it.

OBAAT: Who do you consider to be the most prominent influences on your writing?

MD: I try not to let anyone influence me while I’m actually writing, but I do love Jim Thompson, James M Cain, Gil Brewer, Mickey Spillane, David Goodis, and many more.

Of the living writers, I like James Ellroy, Tom Piccirilli, Vicki Hendricks, Andrew Vachss, Lawrence Block … you know, all the frothy, light-hearted stuff.

OBAAT: As a recovering musician, there’s one question I love to get responses to when I find someone such as yourself, with both a musical and literary background: which do you find to be the more demanding skill?

MD: I’m not trying to back away from this, but I think they’re both tentacles of the same octopus. I’m just an artist groping for an art. I find writing, and the learning about it, to be no different a challenge than music was when I was starting out, and at every stage along the way. The similarities are striking.

OBAAT: What’s next?

MD: Not long ago, I started doing voiceovers for audiobooks. I’ve done a few so far, and I’m pushing for more. I really like it and I think I can do it well, although I’m still learning the ropes. This is yet another tentacle (see previous answer).

Thanks for your time, Mike. Remember the lessons of the Cleveland Bouchercon: Albany is 1500 miles north of Key West. Dress appropriately.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Big O for Kindle

Declan Burke is one of the most versatile writers around. In addition to reviews, interviews, and essays, he has edited, or helped to edit, two award-winning non-fiction anthologies. (Down These Green Streets and Books To Die For.)

The tone of any of his novels is impossible to anticipate based on what you’ve read before. Eightball Boogie is an updated, hipper, take on Chandler, with Harry Rigby filling the PI role. The Big O reminds me of Elmore Leonard at his best, funny and unexpectedly violent. Absolute Zero Cool is meta-fiction, an abandoned character talking to—and possibly controlling—the author who walked away. Slaughter’s Hound catches up with Rigby eight years later, in a not dissimilar tone until things go pear-shaped, after which it is as dark a novel as you’re likely to find. Of the writers I read with any regularity, only Scott Phillips leaves you less able to guess what his next book will be like based on its predecessors than does Squire Burke.

Burke’s newest is the soon to be released Crime Always Pays, the sequel to The Big O. To anticipate the release of Crime Always Pays next year, Dec is releasing The Big O for Kindle for the paltry sum of $0.99 in the United States, and a measly £0.90 in the UK. (It’s those snobby Brits, acting like their money is worth more than ours, or something.)

One Bite at a Time isn’t one of those big, impersonal blogs that takes its readers for granted. I think of each and every one of you as a personal friend. Really. I do. (Which is why I won’t loan you money, as lending money has been proven to ruin friendships.) As your friend, I encourage you to hasten your ass over to Amazon and get a copy; you’ll thank me for it. I say this not because Dec is a friend. He’s a friend, in part, because I read The Big O and thought, “I really need to hang around this guy as much as possible, in case some of this shit rubs off from 3400 miles away.” (Editor’s Note: I looked it up, and that’s not stalking. It’s a little creepy, but legal.)

Get a copy post haste. It’s the best ninety-something whatevers you’ll spend.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bouchercon Panelist Terrence McCauley

Terrence McCauley’s name had been on the fringes of my radar for quite a while before learned he and I would both be members of Peter Rozovsky’s “Hard-boiled, Noir and the Reader's Love Affair With Both” at Bouchercon. I downloaded a copy of Terrence’s novel, Slow Burn, so I’d have some frame of reference during our discussion and was knocked out by it. Set during the Prohibition time of the Depression, it reads like a black-and-white movie made in the day when studios trusted the story and characters to stand on their own, without car chases and shoot-outs on the quarter hour. In preparation for Bouchercon, Terrence was kind enough to answer some questions about Slow Burn and himself as a writer.

One Bite at a Time: I read Slow Burn this week, staying up late last night to finish it. You not only captured the feel of the Depression, but also the style and tone of the old pulp writers. What made you choose a story set in that time? Was it something about the time and setting, or a desire to write in that style?

Terrence McCauley: I’m glad you enjoyed it. Slow Burn takes place in the same universe as my first two novels, Prohibition and Fight Card: Against the Ropes. I chose that era because I wanted to tell a simplified crime story in a complicated era. Setting such a story in modern day didn’t appeal to me, but New York’s rich history always has. My grandmother was born in 1902 New York and grew up in the same neighborhood as James Cagney. She was always very clear that she knew him from the neighborhood, but that they weren’t friends. As I was a little kid and she could’ve told me anything, her honesty always stuck with me. I also remembered her stories of raising a family through the Depression and Prohibition as differing from those I saw in movies and TV shows that depict that time. So, when I decided to become a writer, I did research into that era and realized it was far more dynamic than I’d ever thought it was. It’s not just about hats and gats and old cars and snappy dialogue. It was after the barbarism of World War One, and people had a grounded sense of reality that really doesn’t come forth in most depictions of the era. People were often carefree not because they didn’t know any better, but because they had already seen too much. I try to reflect some of that jaded worldliness in my books, especially in Slow Burn where the contrast between those who have money and those who don’t is quit evident.

OBAAT: Charlie Doherty is a well-chosen and well-crafted character. A former bagman for Tammany Hall, pushed to the fringes when the Reformers took over, now looking to reform himself, but maybe not too much. It’s a common idea—former bad guy sees the light—yet you keep it fresh. How did you come to think of Charlie, and did you consciously tread just this side of Stereotype Swamp?

TM: I did consciously tread the stereotype. When writing in a genre like this, the protagonist needs to be somewhat accessible to the reader without pandering to them. So yes, he’s haunted, but he’s not your stereotypical corrupt cop who drinks too much in his room every night. He knows it’s getting out of hand and he keeps an eye on it. He also didn’t wake up one day and wonder how he became so crooked. He’d been crooked from Day One and knew it. He embraces what he is and doesn’t apologize for it. He’s just sorry the good times came to an end. I wrote Charlie this way because I’m so sick and tired of seeing characters like him suddenly seek redemption. In Slow Burn, he sticks with the case because he thinks there’s money in it for him. When he gets to know Mr. Van Dorn a bit better, his priorities change. I justify it by external actions, not from internal revelations or a willingness to reform. Charlie loved the old system and would’ve been happy to keep it going. He doesn’t see the error of his ways. He simply adjusts to the new landscape for the wrong reasons. I think most of us do that.

OBAAT: There’s a refreshing realism in Slow Burn. Reminiscent of the old pulps, but more nuanced. Lounge singer Alice is hot, but her age shows up close, and she can’t really sing. Carmichael and Doherty have history, and Carmichael has his moments, but deep down he’s an even bigger bastard than he appears. (He reminds me that way of the Rawls character in The Wire.) You’re able to convey all this without using much backstory, which keeps things moving. Did you have backstories written for these characters in advance, or is this how the played out in the writing?

TM: Most of it played out in my mind as I wrote Prohibition. I intentionally wrote Slow Burn as a standalone story, although people will who enjoy it will probably get a kick out of seeing Doherty back when he was on the force in those earlier books.

So, in that sense, I already had Doherty’s character fleshed out. He’s crooked, but everyone is crooked. He’s certainly brave, but knows his limitations. He swims in the same dirty water as everyone else because he doesn’t have much of a choice.

The rivalry with Carmichael came as I began writing Slow Burn. I hadn’t planned on it, but it really added something to the story and made it great to write. But if I can’t tell backstory as it’s moving, I tend to leave it out. No one wants to read big chunks of backstory anyway. I know I don’t. Instead, I show a little bit and let the reader fill in the rest. I think backstory can kill a story’s momentum and I’d rather have someone wishing they knew more than yawning through a part of my work.

OBAAT: Who plays Doherty and Carmichael in the movie? (Living actors at a different age and dead actors qualify for mention.) I kept thinking of Ralph Meeker as Doherty. (I also kept seeing events as a black-and-white movie.) Who would you cast in those parts, and as Loomis, Hauser, and Alice? (You have a potential character actors’ heaven in this book.)

TM: Great question. I wrote Doherty as a smaller man than most people back then. In my mind, Paul Stewart, one of the Mercury players who was in movies like Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful and as the butler at the end of Citizen Kane would play Doherty. I want a rumpled, weary guy with a spark to play him.

Today, I’d love Jeremy Renner to play Doherty. Lieb Schriver to play Carmichael. I’d like Walton Goggins to play Loomis, Max Martini to play Hauser and Charliez Theron to play Alice. (In Prohibition – my Quinn character was based on Robert Ryan. Today, I’d like to see Gerard Butler to play him.)

OBAAT: Do you outline, or make things up as you go?

TM: Outlines would make life easier for me, but I write as I go. That way, the entire story unfolds for me like it does with my character and my reader.

OBAAT: Who are your major influences as a writer?

TM: James Ellroy is phenomenal. He takes complex, flawed characters and a unique style to give the reader a hell of a ride. Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone and Everett Hitch/Virgil Cole books were big influences on how to tell a lot of backstory without the huge paragraphs that turn readers off. Elmore Leonard had a wonderful talent of saying a lot with few words. Donald Westlake’s/Richard Stark’s character Parker was equally as influential.

OBAAT: What’s next?

TM: Several things, actually. I’ve got a couple of short stories coming out: “A Bullet’s All It Takes” in Big Pulp’s “The Kennedy Curse” edition. You see my other protagonists Terry Quinn and Archie Doyle taking on Joe Kennedy in 1920s New York. I also have a new character set in the modern day – ‘spy-runner’ James Hicks – appearing in a short story called “Lady in the Tub” that will be published in Noir Nation 3.

I’m also working on a sequel to Prohibition called The Long Road Back. And yes, I’ve got a sequel in the works for Slow Burn as well, called The Fairfax Incident. The premise of Fairfax is simple: when is murder not murder? When it’s a suicide made to look like murder. It involves some colorful figures from New York society as well as a troubling German political movement that begins looking for a foothold in The Big Apple. The scary part is, much of the book is based on actual events. It’s a lot of fun to write.

Thanks, Terrence, for taking the time to provide such enlightening answers. I’m looking forward to discussing some of the above in more detail over a beverage or three.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Enough of This Writing BS; Let Us Speak of Love

Much of the best effort I’ve put into this blog is the result of flash fiction challenges issues by the estimable Patti Abbott. (Next episode to premier on September 26.) Patti recently wondered why men were loath to whip out (her term) their wedding pictures to show their friends, as women will do at the drop of a hat, even if they have to drop the hat themselves.

A large part of that is because men are far more considerate. Having been on the receiving end of photo sharing experiences, we know the last thing any man wants to see is another man showing him pictures of an event where a good time was had by all, and you were not invited. Not only is this rubbing salt, it implies your absence was a contributing factor to the general merriment. We care more about our friends than that. (We are also aware upset men are far more prone to physical violence than are women, who tend to write off anything we do to our being men.)

The enormous respect I have for Patti and her opinions has led me to search the bowels of my soul and decide to share with all of you not just the pictures of my last (not just most recent; last) wedding, along with a bit of the story.

The Beloved Spouse and I were joined in wedded bliss the day after Thanksgiving, 2009. (I don’t remember the date. It doesn’t matter. We agreed in advance to always celebrate our anniversary on the day after Thanksgiving. We’re guaranteed to be off work and she doesn’t have to worry about me—the man—forgetting. (The fact the day after Thanksgiving is universally known as Black Friday is but an unfortunate coincidence.))

Shy, unassuming sorts we are, we wanted a quiet ceremony among those closest to us. We also wanted to make it a surprise. We invited my parents down for the weekend. (My would-have-been-in-laws had gone to their greater rewards before we had a chance to meet.) We arranged for The Sole Heir to stop by under false pretenses. She brought The Boy Friend, who was not in any way prepared for what was to come.

We were all sitting in the living room watching hockey (Pens vs. Islanders) when a knock came at the door from a young woman dressed in medieval garb, asking if anyone wanted to get married. The Beloved Spouse and I opened the Wedding in a Box we’d been keeping under the bed, passed out appropriate tee shirts

clip_image002

and recited the following vows (bonus points to those who recognize the inspiration for these vows):

HEATHER

Dearly beloved,

I know this was unexpected, so I will be brief.

(Allow scroll to fall open. It’s about four feet long.)

We are gathered here today on this not quite so solemn as some might have it occasion because when one heart exhibits migratory behavior toward another, it’s a force of nature, and not a question of where it grips it. Corky and Dana have married before. The marriages fell over and sank into the swamp. They tried again. Those marriages burned down, fell over, and sank into the swamp. So here they are, having learned from experience and lived as married in all but name (nudge, nudge, say no more) to build the strongest marriage in all the kingdom.

Now, to make things legitimate, please recite the vows each of you has chosen especially for each other to mark this solemn occasion.

CORKY

I, Corky, take you, Dana, as my lawfully wedded husband. I promise to at least consider bringing a lasagna when coming from the basement, and not to turn you into a newt, even though you’re sure to get better. I pledge not to undertake, nor even to suggest, any home improvement projects for at least one year, unless I think of a really good one. Maybe a shrubbery. One that looks nice. Not too expensive. Maybe two of them, place one slightly higher, so you get a two-level effect with a path through the middle. I shall feed the squirrels only in times of most dire famine, to prevent them growing into the most foul-tempered rodents you ever laid eyes on, with big, pointy teeth that will do you a treat.

DANA

I, Dana, take you, Corky, as my lawfully wedded wife, in this ceremony crafted to our own particular—uh—uh—

CORKY

Idiom

DANA

Idiom, to share in my great tracts of land in a very real, and legally binding sense. I promise never to make you live in a self-perpetuating autocracy, but in a an anarco-syndicalist commune. We shall take it in turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting. Soft dirt shall not tempt me, even when I find unidentified and previously unannounced vegetables in my dinner, and I shall not say “Ni!” to you unless strenuously provoked.

HEATHER

The rings, please.

CORKY AND DANA

I give you this ring as a symbol of my love for you. Wear it and think of me and know that I will always love you.

HEATHER

And now, to symbolize the coming together of these two hearts, and to culminate this eccentric performance, the rings shall be placed on each other’s fingers simultaneously. Corky, Dana, clasp the rings in your right hands, and extend the fourth finger of the left. Place the rings on your new spouse’s finger when I am at the count of three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number counted, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt I not count, neither count two, excepting then that I proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number of three, being the third number, be reached, then slide the ring onto the waiting finger of your beloved’s hand to consummate the marriage as much as can be done in a public setting.

One…

Two…

Five

CORKY AND DANA

No, Three!

HEATHER

Three!

(DANA and CORKY slide rings on.)clip_image004

And now shalt we go forth to feast upon the lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats and large—

DANA

Skip down a bit.

HEATHER

Ummm, yes, right here.

What has been joined here today let no man put asunder, lest the Lord blow him to tiny bits, in His mercy. You may kiss the bride.

Due to a lack of space and foreknowledge, attendance was sparse, as expected. To add to the family atmosphere, other arrangements were made. 

clip_image006

Which leads us to the final, and best, reason not to show your wedding pictures around: there’s always someone who gets left out and cops an attitude.

clip_image007

Now that I think of it, I can’t recall seeing Patti’s wedding pictures anywhere. What’s up with that?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We Have a Winner (and a Decision)

We commemorate Day Two of Unintentional Eric Beetner Week by announcing the winner of the last week’s contest to help me to decide what to talk about during my Bouchercon Author’s Choice event, Saturday, September 21 at 4:00.

And the winner is…

Eric Beetner!!!

Woody Allen once said showing up is 80% of success. Well, in Eric’s case, it was 100%; he was the sole commenter, and he liked the original idea.

So, my session is now titled, “Is Chandler' s Concept of the Ideal Hero Still Relevant?” Given that no one had any better suggestions, I’ll expect a healthy gathering in Room 5, even though I’m following Terrence McCauley. (Hmmm, I’m likely to be at Terrence’s session. Maybe if I lock the doors from the outside…)

See you there.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bouchercon Panelist Eric Beetner

As previously noted, I will be part of Peter Rozovsky’s Bouchercon panel, “Hard-boiled, Noir and the Reader's Love Affair With Both.” Among the noteworthy authors whose reputations I will diminish by my presence is Eric Beetner. I read Eric’s latest novel, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me recently and had a few questions for its author.

One Bite at a Time: We’ve not met before, so give our dozens of readers an idea of what the deal is with Eric Beetner.

Eric Author photo SM Eric Beetner: I am going to take my wife’s advice and not get all self-deprecating. So here goes, the good stuff without all the self doubt and crippling insecurities:

I write hard-boiled crime fiction. I don’t mind the label. Call it Noir if you want, but I deal in what I consider hard-boiled in that there is a lot of action, virtually no good guys, and I use way too many similes.

My day job is as a TV editor so I work in a creative field. I am a film school graduate who wrote screenplays for years, though nothing got produced. I’ve been a musician, painter, acting student among other things. Now I write books. Oh, I also design book covers. Go figure.

I’ve written quite a bit, way more than what has been published. Six unpublished novels to be exact. Someday soon though . . . In the meantime, I’ve got eight books you can get in one way or another, and I’ve been fortunate enough to appear in over 16 anthologies at this point, with a few more coming later this year.

The ideas keep coming and I keep typing so if all goes well, the crime fiction world won’t be able to get rid of me any time soon.

OBAAT: I read The Devil Doesn’t Want Me last week and loved it, though I’ll admit I had to shift gears part way in. The first third or so reminded me a lot of the dynamic between Armand and Richie Nix in Elmore Leonard’s Killshot. Is that because I had Elmore Leonard on the brain last week, or did you feel some of that, too? Hell, have you read Killshot?

EB: Y’know, when Mr. Leonard passed away recently I was forced to admit that I was woefully lacking in my Elmore Leonard reading so I went online and I ordered up I think seven books, Killshot among them. So I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to soon.

It’s embarrassing how little Leonard I’ve read. And shameful for a crime writer, I know. In my defense, Stick was one of the first crime fiction books I ever read. My 8th grade science teacher gave it to me. Not sure if that is exactly ethical, but she was awesome and I remember really liking the book. Since then I think it’s been so easy to see films based on Leonard’s books, I would go to see if there was something of his I’d want to read and realize I already knew the story from a movie. But I’m going to catch up now, I promise. A little late for Dutch, but still.

And any comparison to him is a high honor, even if you thought I was stealing a little bit.

OBAAT: The progress of the story changes after the first major event, which I won’t describe here because I want people to be curious and read the damn book. It has much more of an action movie vibe after Lars and Trent have their—uh—disagreement. Did you mean to change the tone there, or is this just me?

EB: I do love stories that change. I like mixing up the rhythms, and I like to keep a reader off balance a little bit. When the hooks are in you while reading a good story, I love it when things kick into a higher gear and you are along for the ride 100%.

And thanks for not spoiling anything. I’m a weirdo and like to know next to nothing about a book or a movie. Don’t you hate when you know the major plot point from the back jacket text and still have to wade through 50-100 pages to get to something you know is coming? (Editor’s Note: Yes. I avoid reading jacket copy whenever possible, and rarely read reviews of books I’m pretty sure I’ll read.)

But, yeah, I don’t think a story needs to change from comedy to drama, but think of Psycho. The great genius of that story – the movie and Bloch’s book – is the big switch of (I shouldn’t have to say spoiler here, but I will) killing Marion. When that happens and you get thrown for a loop, the reader is experiencing the rest of the story knowing absolutely anything can happen. I like that.

OBAAT: When the movie is made, who would you cast as Lars? Trent? Shaine? (Old and dead actors can be used. “A younger Scott Glenn” or “a living William Holden” are okay.)

EB: I honestly haven’t thought about it much, but I always default to guys who are lousy box office draws. I love the actor David Strathairn and I think he’d make a great Lars. Or maybe Fred Ward in his Miami Blues days.. Someone fairly grizzled and not too pretty. Although, maybe Kurt Russell could do it now. He’s old enough these days and he can do anything in my eyes. Yeah, I’m gonna go with Kurt.

For Shaine, that’s tough. Her whole thing is she’s not classically pretty in the Hollywood sense and I’m sure they would change that if it ever got made. They’d go with someone like Scarlett Johansen when she was in The Man Who Wasn’t There.

I’d say maybe the New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey back in her Heavenly Creatures age. She’s still a fantastic actress, but for that age she was really wonderful in that film.

Trent is tough because you want someone who can be enough of an asshole, but still be a bit likable. Would a young John Cusack fit the bill? Maybe.

OBAAT: The contemporary idea of the FBI and similar government agencies is of omnipotent, eye in the sky or Big Brother operations. The feds in The Devil Doesn’t Want Me aren’t all that bright, are a step or two behind Lars and his antagonists all the way, and, frankly, kind of lazy. (Or at least uninterested.) I like how it was done—I’m sick of books where the good guy knows what the bad guy will do almost before he does—and I’m wondering what your thought process was when you decided to make them like that.

EB: Those are my kind of guys. I like the less-than-perfect types, be they criminals or law enforcement. I’ve written some really lousy criminals in my time. But the feds in here I think I was just trying to be real. Finding the needle in a haystack that is Lars in this story would be really hard. I have no desire to tell a story about guys with spy satellites tracking someone’s every move and blowing shit up. I’d rather write a character like Earl Walker Ford who just wants to be done with the whole damn thing and does his job like a normal human. When was the last time you interacted with a government employee and came away thinking, “Man, that guy was really killing it today. Above and beyond. Confidence in the system restored.”

OBAAT: Who do you consider to be the most prominent influences on your writing?

EB: I try not to emulate anyone’s style. I’d fail miserably if I did. I do like simple, direct writers like John Rector and Johnny Shaw. I love the wild flights of imagination of Duane Swierczynski and Joe R. Lansdale. I love the dark humor in Victor Gischler and Allan Guthrie. I love some off beat writers like Barry Gifford or Jean-Patrick Manchette. And I love classic hard-boiled writers like Chester Himes and Lionel White.

All of it seeps in somehow, I’m sure. You can’t read a great book like Sean Doolittle’s The Cleanup or Jake Hinkson’s Hell On Church St. or Peter Farris’ Last Call For The Living and not be inspired.

OBAAT: Do you outline, or make things up as you go?

EB: I’m an outliner. I like to know where I’m going, but in a very skeletal way. I think it was Robert Frost who said, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” (That, by the way, is the only time in my life I’ve ever started a sentence with “I think it was Robert Frost who said” and I promise it will be my last)

I know all the beats, but sometimes those beats can be as simple as: He goes to the apartment. That will end up as a 2500 word chapter. And outlines should be flexible. Nothing is ever written in stone.

OBAAT: What’s next?

EB: My agent is out working hard to sling the new manuscripts at publishers. There is some good stuff in there, I think. Hopefully someone else will think so too. Unfortunately, in that great slush pile of my work is the sequel to The Devil Doesn’t Want Me which is not going to be put out as of now. Complicated story. They liked it, said it was as good as the first book, but there are other reasons Guilt Edged is not putting it out right now. But it’s there and all ready to go when someone wants it.

Beyond that, I have a novella called White Hot Pistol which will be out sometime later this fall as a part of a new venture in e-books. Like my latest novella, Stripper Pole At The End Of The World, I like writing these shorter books in between trying to sell the novels. Keeps me sharp and it’s a good boost of confidence when I know something will actually get released, even in a very small way.

I’m in the new Kwik Krimes anthology, the new Shotgun Honey anthology, Reloaded. A new antho based on titles of Bruce Springsteen songs, one antho that is more comedy stories and one benefitting the Books and Booze podcast that I wrote a non-fiction piece for. That’s different for me.

I continue to co-host the Noir at the Bar reading series here in Los Angeles. I’m outlining three different novels right now and trying to decide what to write next.

ISN’T THAT ENOUGH? WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM ME?

 

(The “Hard-boiled, Noir and the Reader's Love Affair With Both” panel will take place Friday, September 20 at 10:20 and includes Mike Dennis, Terrence McCauley, and Jonathan Woods.)