Friday, January 29, 2010

Win a Signed, First Edition Copy of Matt Hilton's Slash and Burn!

I know this mug. Cat writes insane thrillers. How insane? You better have nitroglycerin pills and a defibrillator laying around when reading one of his books. You guessed it, I'm speaking of Matt Hilton, the creator of Dead Men's Dust and soon to be released, Judgement and Wrath.

Matt's double cool. So cool, he's running a little competition which gives you the chance to win a signed, first edition copy of his new book, SLASH AND BURN. Matt's giving you this opportunity and all you need to do, is something you should be doing anyhow: Writing! Want more details? I thought you would. Take a little trip over to Matt's blog and check it out: Matt Hilton's Short Story Competition

Good luck!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Setup

Weaving in and out of a writing euphoria: I knew I was losing it, when I looked over at my fat, black cat, Kitty, and she said "What the fuck's your problem?"

I only asked for her help in solving a few, minor plot issues. I stared her down. She returned the stare. I back down then she backs down. Back and forth this went, until I heard a rustlin/banging noise from the back room. She smiled and I swear to God she nodded- cocky bitch.

I move to the back room and there's our old dog, Rocky, turning her litter box into a smorgasbord. How do you make a puking sound in a blog post? He's chewing...something and smacking his lips, which are now dotted with kitty litter. We do the stare thing. He flashes puppy dog eyes. I chase him out of there and coming back up front, I see what they were up to: Kitty's puked up a hairball on my manuscript.

It was the perfect plan- a well executed setup performed by a ten year old cat and a thirteen year old dog.

And no, there is not a drop of booze flowing through my system.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I see you there: You're at work. You check your personal email- you're not supposed to. You get the word: Crimefactory is up and running. You check out the site, see those craaazy mug shots and an insane list of authors.

I guess those reports can wait.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Truth is Stranger than Fiction- Part 2

Ever sit down to write something and your mind goes blank? No inspiration? You read the papers, or cruise the internet and it's the same old, same old. Sometimes, it's just outside your backdoor, right in your home town. As is the case with the story linked in this post.

This seemed pretty mild at the beginning. There were a few strange things in the middle- that whole "Babyland" bit. When you get to the end of though, you realize what she went through and what she's now going through. Those last six sentences will break your heart: St. Petersburg Woman Sues Cemetary

The cemetary owner(s) my Father in Law would say: "Somebody should bust that fucker in the head."


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Query Blues

As many of you now know, writing a book is only a small part of the battle. When you've decided that the novel is complete and you're ready to put yourself out there to potential agents, you also know that you must have a query to send out first. It's pretty straightforward: Hook an agent with the first sentence and pull them in with 4-5 more. Less is more. Easy.

Or not. Writing a query is like riding through hell on a porcupine. It's a long, uncomfortable process that's a pain in the ass. I'm new to the query letter and trying to get the gist of your book down in a few sentences can be tough. Or really fucking hard. Especially, if your plot is not a "paint by the numbers" plot.

I've probably seen every sample query on the net. They are all different. One site says to do this. Another says to do that. Then I found Query Shark, a blog ran by agent Janet Reid. She gives you specific instructions on the format of a query. You send in your query and maybe she selects and critiques it on her blog. She cuts down to the fucking bone. There's no mollycoddling involved. Nope, she's dead honest and that's why I like her blog. You get to see the queries which made the cut and those which didn't make the cut. Go see for yourself which is the larger of those two categories.

I sent in a query to the shark a few months ago. I think at the time, she mentioned having around 1,700 on the docket, so chances of her ever getting to mine are slim. I'm actually grateful for that. I think I've learned quite a bit about writing a query since then, even if I did read her instructions and followed them. Or rather, thought I followed them- I'm not so sure anymore, after re-visiting her blog. I'm in limbo until she reads it, or it falls into the hand of an agent. It's at that point where I will get the ultimate feedback, in the form of an ass-whipping critque, acceptance or rejection.

I'll finish up with this one point: All agents are different. Research the agent you will be sending your query letter and pages to. Educate yourself on what that particular agent wants and do not be an ignoramus. Even though you may still very well get a rejection slip, at least do yourself the honor of going in with both barrels loaded. After you've done all of that, be patient with the query writing process and do not send it out until it's ready. Your writing career just might depend on it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Saturday at Haslam's

On a good Saturday when chores are not in the pipeline, I'll head off to the largest new and used book store in Florida, Haslams. It's a five minute drive, right on Central. I browse for an hour or two, sometimes coming away with one or two books. Today, I picked up four- eight if you consider one is a collection.

It's cold and raw down here in the Burg today. They claimed a brief snow flurry in Tampa. Freezing in Florida means your orange juice is now an expensive commodity. Haslam's is my oasis: cats running around, nice people working the store and sometimes, huge bargains on books you rarely even see at Borders or B&N. I'll state my case for Haslam's below, while you're drinking that five dollar glass of juice.

Ross Macdonald- Sleeping Beauty- $9 hardback. I've become a bit obsessed with Macdonald. His books are hard to find around here and only ocassionaly will Haslam's have one. Beyond his storytelling chops, it's also really his sentence structure that keeps you turning the pages. If you haven't read Ross Macdonald, you need to.

James M. Cain- Serenade- $3 paperback. In my opinion, James M. Cain was at his best in Double Indemnity and a close follow up with Postman. This one looks a little different, but Cain is a master I'm always willing to read.

Ace Atkins- Crossroad Blues- $5 paperback. I've only tried to read one other Ace Atkins book. It was White Shadow. I've picked it up and put it down, a half dozen times. For some reason, I want to like his writing. We'll see if this book can lead me down a better path.

Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950's- $17 hardback. Five novels: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Pick-Up by Charles Willeford. Down There by David Goodis and The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes. I was fucking giddy when I found this one. I'll leave it at that.

Total spent- $34

After I bought the books, I went over to a street corner, seafood take-out stand I frequent. It's a funky little establishment. Twelve boiled shrimp and a potato, in spicy garlic butter- $5. Then I went and read some kick ass work by Lee Hughes, David Barber and Michael J. Solender. Now, I'm back home to work on my novel. I've commited to work on it, at least three hours a day. But, I think about it all day.

There you go, a good day in my life. So my friends and enemies, what's a good day in yours?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I've been doing a lot of writing these last few days, just not of the blogging variety. Instead, it's been all about the book, including having chapters reviewed (read as shredded) by some pretty tough hombres. Even as they're being picked over, I'm making changes to them because sometimes you don't know if your writing can be better, until you provide an alternative example. I was struggling with this in relation to the opening chapters for about two months, until just this Monday. Something about them, just never felt...right. Dig what I'm saying?

It's not that I thought the opening chapter and chapters were bad, it's just that they always seemed like they could be better. So as I was reading over the beginning, I really tried to answer the question, of what it was that was actually bugging me about the opening. I can now answer that question with one word "bloat".

In this case, bloat refers to information that may not be progressing the actual plot of the story. As an experiment, I'm replacing this information with a tighter, more concise picture of the main characters who make up the book. This means taking this story apart for the first 6-9 chapters, which is where the setup for the plot is. When I make those changes to character background, it will also affect the plot. I feel it will be a positive outcome. I'll try it, send it off to my reviewers and see what they think.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ligature Marks' January Issue is Up and Running!

So go check it out here: Ligature Marks. It's a cool site and has some really great writing, along with interviews, book and also film reviews. And of course, LM is rockin' my own work as well, in Gulf Coast Swimmer.

And now, for my "Did you know?" session about this story. Why? Because I read a lot of stories, and often wonder where they come from. Are they random thoughts? Did they start out one way, only to end up completely different? Well, below is some insight into GCS.

  • This story, originally began from the memoir of an up and coming criminal type. He was young and enthusiastic and willing to do anything it took, to get to the top. I bore a couple of brain blips over the next couple of days and it morphed into a detective story.
  • I was researching information for another piece of work, when I came upon the term "suburbanism" and its relationship to St. Petersburg during the late, 1970's. It was interesting and was a trigger point for changing the direction of the story.
  • The store with the name "Bargain Phones and Shoes", really exists. Yet, I have no idea if it existed back then. Regardless, I imagined having the same thoughts that Mark Hertlein did, everytime he drove by it.
  • Vic's house and my own, are one in the same.
  • The letter to Vic's daughter, came only as an afterthought. The time frame and the letter, completely shook up the story and changed it from my previous work, as I imagined the type of bond that Vic and his daughter must have for him to make his confession. The positive way in which it added to the story, was gravy.
  • It may seem like I gave up the money shot to this story, but I didn't. There is much more to this and with a bit of luck, you will all get to see it.

There you have it, six points of insight into GCS. Now go check out Ligature Marks and enjoy the New Year!