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I’ve got a confession to make… by Dan O’Shea

May 3, 2013 by  •
Though he’s been known in crime fiction circles for quite some time, both for his own short story work (see, Old School) as well as his amazing readings of other people’s work (most notably, Steve Weddle‘s Oscar Martello stories), Dan O’Shea hit a milestone this week when his first full-length novel, Penance, was released by Exhibit A. Dan is truly one of the good guys, and it’s my extreme pleasure to welcome him for a guest post to celebrate the occasion of Penance’s release.

Some Ruminations on Short Fiction by Dan O'SheaI’ve seen some of the early reviews of PENANCE. One of the things I look for is what the reviews have in common. If there’s something, good or bad, that’s showing up in most of them, then it’s worth considering.

And one thing that’s popped up a fair amount is Chicago’s key role in the book – that it’s more than just the setting, that it is almost a character. I’m glad to see that. And a little worried.

‘Cause I made some stuff up. And I started with the very first scene.

I was just starting out, and I knew what I wanted. I wanted this old woman being blown away just stepping out of church after going to confession – and being blown away from a long ways off. That was causing problems. Because I didn’t know a specific church where I could set that scene. I knew it had to be a Catholic church. I knew I wanted it on the northwest side of the city. Now, I know the city pretty well, but it’s not like I know every church in town. I mean c’mon, there are 356 parishes in the Chicago archdiocese. So I started Googling, and then Google Earth-ing, trying to find exactly the right one.

I was wasting a lot of time. Then it hit me. Just make one up. It’s not like the Chicago in my book is a carbon copy of the one in real life. I mean yeah, there’s a dynastic Irish family running the mayor’s office and the political machine in my book and there sure was one in real life. But in real life, the succession from one Daley to another was interrupted by three different intervening administrations. Hell, Little Richie even lost the primary his first time out. And neither Daley ever had anyone killed as far as I know. Daley Sr. never had a dead son chopped up with an ax. I was already making stuff up.

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The Hardie Memorandum by Duane Swierczynski

May 3, 2013 by  •
The third book in Duane Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardie series, Point & Shoot, was released this past Tuesday (Mulholland Books). For both previous releases, Fun & Games and Hell & Gone, I was fortunate to have Duane stop by for a guest post. Today I am very pleased to welcome him back to complete his guest post trilogy, this time with an overview of how what started as a standalone book evolved into an amazing novel in three parts.

Duane SwierczynskiNow that the final installment of the Charlie Hardie trilogy is out, you probably think you know everything about our friendly neighborhood house sitter/prison guard/spaceman. Au contraire! Sure, a little more of his origin has come to light, but you don’t know the origin behind the origin. Not unless you were standing behind me, reading over my shoulder. (Which would have been creepy.) For instance, I’ll bet you didn’t know that…

Originally, Charlie was supposed to be a character readers have met before. In its earliest incarnation, my idea was to bring back a security guard named Vincent Marella from Severance Package and send him off on his own boozy, violent, sun-dappled adventure. Shaken and depressed from the events of that novel, Vincent takes a trip to Santa Monica for a few days using some insurance money. Of course, trouble follows him, as he’s a loose end in this international conspiracy. I kept the part about going out west part, but scrapped the rest.

Fun & Games was almost set in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Although L.A. inspired the original idea, for a while I’d convinced myself it was better to stick to my own turf. In this version, Charlie would have been a house-sitter, only he’d be watching a cabin up in the Pocono Mountains—isolated and drunk, as one tends to be in the mountains. And then eventually he’d make his way back to Philadelphia for the big showdown with the Big Bad (who weren’t quite the Accident People—and there was no Mann yet). But SoCal continued to tug at my soul… and the Pocono Mountains soon became the Hollywood Hills, and the Philadelphia morphed into Studio City. And I’m glad I did, because…

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Finding Your Audience by Susan C. Shea

May 1, 2013 by  •
Very happy to welcome to the blog Susan Shea, whose book The King’s Jar is out today. The King’s Jar is the follow-up to Murder in the Abstract, the book which introduced Dani O’Rourke, chief fundraiser at San Francisco’s prestigious Devor Museum of Art and Antiquities. As she did in her first outing, The King’s Jar once again finds Dani at the center of a mystery, this time involving the murder of a renowned archaeologist. Today, Susan explains why many authors find themselves feeling just as uncomfortable and fish out of water as Dani does trying to solve a mystery when it comes time for them to self-promote.

Susan C. SheaEvery week, I get email invitations, blog announcements, and Twitter feeds offering me advice on how to reach people who will buy my book. Some of the advice is achievable at the individual effort level: Join Facebook, open a Twitter account, get busy on Goodreads, ask your local bookstore if you can read there.

Some of the advice requires a little help if you’re not tech-savvy: Create a lively web site, produce a newsletter, manage your tweets so you are visible to special sets of people, offer to do Skype book club events. You don’t have to be technologically proficient but it also takes time to set up library and club talks and visit the shrinking number of local newspapers that actually carry book reviews and author interviews.

Then there are the Big Deal suggestions: solicit reviews by credible critics, set up a real (that is to say, on-the-ground) tour to a city or region, hire a p.r. person to get you interviews, t.v. appearances, get Oprah to choose your book for her millions of devoted followers.

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The 5-2 Blog Tour: “Kilmahog” by Nigel Bird

April 26, 2013 by  •
The 5-2 Blog TourApril is National Poetry Month, and as part of that celebration Gerald So, the man behind The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, has organized the 30 Days of The 5-2 Blog Tour to celebrate the fantastic crime themed poetry that appears on The 5-2.

This is actually the second year for the 30 Days of The 5-2 Blog Tour, and I’m proud to be participating again. I admit I don’t read a ton of poetry myself, but as a fan of crime fiction I do try to visit The 5-2 on a regular basis. In addition to seeing many familiar names amongst the contributors, it’s a nice way to discover new talent as well.

During the 30 Days of The 5-2 Blog Tour, bloggers are taking turns spotlighting a poem of their choice every day in the month of April. I’ve chosen to feature the wonderful, haunting “Kilmahog” by Nigel Bird.

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The Secret to Writing by Paul O’Brien

April 25, 2013 by  •
Paul O’Brien’s debut, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, was one of the more enjoyable books I read last year, a wonderful combination of organized crime and professional wrestling circa the early 1970s. I wasn’t the only one who loved the book–none other than wrestling legend and author himself Mick Foley got behind O’Brien’s work–and so O’Brien has picked up where he left off and now presents his eager readers with a sequel, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Vol. 2. Along the way he appears to have discovered the secret to writing, which he has been kind enough to stop by today and share.

Paul O'BrienI have been lucky enough to begin my writing career under the wing of people who knew how to write story. They explained to me the rules and the boundaries and the arcs and payoffs of writing. I soaked up every word and tossed them left and right for fifteen years before I attempted my first novel last year, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green.

The novel came fifteen years after I began writing professionally for the theatre. After sixteen plays and a couple of screenplays. It also came after I’d been asked ‘what’s the secret to writing’ a couple of hundred times.

Secret?

Of course there is no secret. It’s all about the work, the perseverance, the skill, the time. Or is it? Over the last couple of months, during the writing of Blood Red Turns Dollar Green Vol. 2, I think I’ve uncovered the simplistic ‘secret’ that I was looking for.

So this piece is for everyone out there who has ever wondered what the secret to writing is. You might be surprised by my findings but bear with me.

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Pushover by Dianne Emley

April 23, 2013 by  •
Dianne EmleySince she’d already broken her first rule about following her instincts, she’d follow her second: never look back. – Iris Thorne

Having worked her way up to the position of branch manager at the brokerage firm of McKinney Alitzer in downtown Los Angeles, Iris Thorne is pretty confident she can handle anything life throws at her. That is until her ex-fiancé, Todd Fillinger, calls up with a major investment opportunity for Iris in Russia.

Her instincts tell her to skip the trip and let the past be the past, but lingering guilt over the way their relationship ended–Iris left Todd at the altar, in Paris no less–overrides Iris’s instincts and she finds herself on a plane to Russia.

Almost immediately upon her arrival it becomes apparent something isn’t quite right with the situation, or Todd. When pressed, Todd admits he’s been having trouble with the Russian mafia, which is trying to elbow in on Todd’s art brokerage business. The seriousness of the situation is made graphically clear when, as Iris looks on in horror, Todd is gunned down outside the restaurant where the two were to have dinner.

Initially taken in for questioning by the Russian police, and a shady man who doesn’t identify himself, Iris is eventually extracted from the sticky situation by a member of the US Consulate. Feeling a sense of obligation to Todd now more than ever, Iris agrees to carry an urn containing his ashes back to the US for delivery to Todd’s sister, figuring it’s the least she can do. If only she’d trusted her instincts and never gotten on that plane to begin with…

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The Missing File by D. A. Mishani

April 22, 2013 by  •
The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf“He’ll be home in an hour, maybe three hours, tomorrow morning at the latest.” – Detective Avraham (Avi) Avraham

When sixteen-year-old Ofer Sharabi fails to return home from school one afternoon, his mother dutifully reports the situation to the local police. Unfortunately, Detective Avraham (Avi) Avraham is less than motivated to begin searching for the young man.

As he explains to the distraught mother, their Israeli town of Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, doesn’t “have serial killers; we don’t have kidnappings; and there aren’t many rapists out there attacking women on the streets.” Indeed, “there is very little chance that anything has happened to your son.” And with a disinterested and somewhat condescending figurative pat on the head, he sends her home with the reassurance the boy has merely cut school and will be home before night’s end.

Of course, the boy doesn’t return. And by the time Avraham officially opens a file on the case the following day he is already seemingly hopelessly behind the eight ball on the investigation, a position from which he spends the majority of the remainder of the story.

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The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

April 17, 2013 by  •
The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack WolfTruth had been laid out in front of me, and I was determined to learn all I could before the Door of Revelation should close again. – Tristan Hart

The mid 18th century is a curious place for young Tristan Hart. Son of a country squire, Hart is as curious as he is intellectually gifted. Hart is especially obsessed with the inner workings of living creatures, in particular the relationship between the mind and body…and soul, should such a thing actually exist.

When he gets the opportunity to move to London and study anatomy with the lauded anatomist and physician William Hunter, Hart is able to indulge his every curiosity and desire, intellectual and carnal, and he has many.

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is a challenging read in several ways. First, it may quite literally be challenging reading for some readers, as the author, Jack Wolf, has chosen to present the text in the voice of the 18th century, including period accurate spellings, grammar, colloquialisms, and capitalization of every noun—the last of which I admit I never quite got past and found continually distracting.

Beyond the literal, however, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones also tackles some rather serious and sensitive issues, and does so quite boldly and, at times, graphically. Starting with his experiments on small animals while still a boy, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones recounts Hart’s experiences with dissection and vivisection in explicit detail. The book also doesn’t shy away from the sadomasochistic experimenting Hart does once he discovers the whorehouses of London. And while Wolf’s writing in presenting these scenes is inarguably deft, that may not be enough to make the subject matter palatable for some readers.

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No One’s Pushover by Dianne Emley

April 15, 2013 by  •
Very happy to welcome LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley back to the blog, though I’m a touch saddened by the realization that her post today about Pushover actually brings us to the end of her retrospective on the Iris Thorne series, which was originally published in the early-mid 90s prior to being reissued recently. Whether you knew Iris back when or have discovered her for the first time through this series, I hope you’ve enjoyed the wonderful trip down memory lane Dianne has provided.

Dianne EmleyThank you, Elizabeth, for hosting my guest posts about my experiences revisiting my first mystery series which featured Iris Thorne–a single, sexy, and savvy Los Angeles investment advisor. The books were originally published by Simon and Schuster in the nineties. All five Iris Thorne Mysteries—Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover are available for the first time as e-books and trade paperbacks.

This post is about Pushover, the fifth and mostly likely final Iris Thorne Mystery (although never say never), and thus the last entry in this blog series.

When I sat down to craft Iris #5, I was weary of writing about an amateur sleuth. I was tired of finding ways for Iris to stumble over dead bodies and outsmart cops. I was tired of Iris’s job and the office politics. Even after the series debut, Cold Call, was sold in a two-book deal and I learned I was writing a series (yes, I was that naïve), I strived to make the subsequent books darker. Once I pitched my editor the idea of Iris as a murderer and was quickly (and rightly) laughed down. I pitched the idea of setting an Iris book in another location such as New York City, San Francisco, or, how about the Caribbean? My editor tartly responded, “So is this ‘Iris Takes a Vacation?’” I was feeling more than a little trapped.

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The Grey’s Anatomy Argument by Urban Waite

April 8, 2013 by  •
Urban Waite burst onto the scene in 2011 with The Terror of Living, a stunning debut which made my Top 10 Reads of 2011, and quite a few other ‘best of’ lists as well. Today I’m incredibly pleased to welcome Urban to the blog in advance of the release of his newest, The Carrion Birds (William Morrow, April 16th).

Urban WaiteThe easiest question is usually the most complicated. A couple years ago I published my first novel, The Terror of Living, and as part of that process I gave several interviews. Interviews are always fun. The questions make you think, usually for the first time in a year, on the themes of your work, on where the characters came from, on the goals you were trying to achieve.

In summary, they help summarize the novel in a way. They pull back the curtain a bit and shine a light on the inner workings of novel writing. The gears and sprockets, the little springs that some times go flying into the air under all that stress. These are the types of questions you begin to expect as an author, and they are good questions. They are thoughtful, well meaning questions that fly like arrows toward the bull’s eye.

Of course they are not alone. Often interviewers temper some of these questions with a lead-in or conclusion to the interview, either winding up to the larger subjects of theme, voice, character, etc., or they help bring the interview to a close.

One question I have received quite a bit now that The Carrion Birds nears publication is whether I, as a writer, always wanted to be a writer. The quick answer (and the one I always gave in the past) has been to say that no, I wanted to be a marine biologist and it was only through electives during college that I discovered I had a talent for writing. This is the brush-off. This is the: let’s move onto the next question so I can get at the meat of theme and character and why exactly I did shoot those horses in my last novel, or make that one character so damned demented.

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The Great Road Trip, 2013 by Sara J Henry

April 5, 2013 by  •
Today I am very pleased to welcome Sara Henry back to the blog. Sara’s first book, Learning to Swim, quite deservedly won both the Anthony and Agatha Awards for best first novel, as well as the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Sara is currently promoting her new book, A Cold and Lonely Place, and as you’ll see she’s been quite the road warrior in doing so!

Sara HenryI’m on the road – driving through the night to Houston, my first stop – before I remember that (a) I’m highly uncomfortable driving in cities and (b) I find doing new things more slightly stressful.

But I’m off on a five-week, self-organized driving tour for my new novel. Apparently this is how I get myself to do things: selective partial amnesia.

Stop 1: Houston’s Murder by the Book, where I’m staying with Stephanie Evans1 (Faithful unto Death). I squeeze in a visit with a former neighbor, and after the event go to dinner with the brother of another writer friend. That all went well, I think, deciding the ominous tickle in my throat is allergies. That’s all, just allergies.

Then to Dallas, on an interstate that loops and swirls like a giant surreal video game. I try not to hold my breath. Here I meet up with Taylor Stevens1 (The Innocent), with whom I share a publisher, and thanks in no small part to her help have a lovely event at A Real Bookstore in Fairview, Texas.

That evening on Facebook, a friend asks when I might be visiting Oklahoma. I check the distance on Google Maps and make the fateful reply, How about tomorrow? I make it to Tulsa easily – but oops, a snowstorm is forecast across Texas. Just where I am heading.