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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.

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A Film Deal Odyssey by Dave Zeltserman

April 1, 2013 by  •
Dave ZeltsermanBy 2005 I was barely published. My first novel, Fast Lane, had been published by a tiny micro press in the US and a small publisher in Italy, and I had two stories in magazines. I also had three finished novels, two of which, SMALL CRIMES and OUTSOURCED, I was sure would get published but my agent was getting no interest for them. Eventually all three would get published—BAD THOUGHTS in 2007, SMALL CRIMES in 2008, where it would end up topping NPR’s list of best crime and mystery novels of the year, and OUTSOURCED in 2010, but at that moment things were looking bleak and I was ready to toss in the towel . What kept me going was a phone call from my agent telling me that one of the more influential film agents in Hollywood wanted to take on Outsourced.

Over the next 3 years we had a couple of close calls. At one point it looked like we were going to get a cable series deal, at another, we had a couple of very hot screenwriters who wanted to work on it, but in both cases nothing ended up materializing. Then at the end of 2008 we got the deal. Constantin Film would finance the movie and Impact Pictures would produce it. I quickly learned there are 3 parts of a film deal that a writer needs to care about. The option price, the floor and ceiling prices. All deals have the film rights (which are sold the day filming starts) based on a percentage of the budget, so the floor price (the minimum price) and the ceiling (maximum price) are what’s most important. You’ll also get a percentage of profit, but as my film agent explained to me, writers shouldn’t expect to get anything there. A case in point, Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump, sued Paramount because at the time that Gump was the 3rd highest gross in film history, Paramount claimed there was no profit.

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The Land of the Devil by James LePore

March 28, 2013 by  •
Today I am pleased to welcome James LePore back to the blog. Jim is an accomplished author, and has been kind enough to allow me to share an original short story based on one of his novels, Blood of My Brother. Jim’s latest novel, The Fifth Man, is available from The Story Plant (ISBN: 978-1611880656).

Gods and Fathers by James LePoreI have discovered, after writing five novels, that my characters take on lives of their own. They have pre-novel lives and post-novel lives. I get to know them in ways somehow more intimate than the real people in my life. My book of short stories, Anyone Can Die, was a joy to write, because it gave me a chance to reconnect with the central characters in my first novel, A World I Never Made. I just finished a sequel, called The Fifth Man, to Sons and Princes, my third novel, in which the Massi family lives and breathes again.

The story that appears here, “The Land of the Devil”, is one among three still unpublished stories that I wrote after the release of my second novel, Blood of My Brother. It is a prequel that stands alone as a brief glimpse into the soul of a tortured young woman. Isabel haunts me and will, my heart tells me, appear again in future work. — Jim LePore, March 7, 2013

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Clowns, Aimless Babble and Snot-Slinging Drunk by Mike McCrary

March 27, 2013 by  •
I’m quite pleased to welcome Mike McCrary back to the blog today. Mike is a screenwriter who has recently begun the foray into writing crime fiction, and his work has already appeared places like Out of the Gutter, The Big Adios, and Shotgun Honey. It’s been my pleasure to work with Mike on a couple of manuscripts, and while he’s waiting to hear back on one novel he has on submission, he’s decided to go ahead and turn his novella, Getting Ugly, loose into the wild.

Which is rather fitting, as Getting Ugly is a pretty wild ride. Mike would be the first to tell you there’s no über-complicated, Inceptionesque plot at work in Getting Ugly, just a lot of badass people going to work, all trying to get the man known as Big Ugly. Easier said than done, as you don’t get the moniker “Big Ugly” because you have a charming personality. So, give a read to Mike’s thoughts on that old chestnut of writing advice, write what you know, then consider if today might warrant a little Getting Ugly.

Mike McCrary“Write what you know.”

I remember hearing this horrific advice years ago. If you were raised by wolves, kicked a smack habit at age seven, roamed the globe as a circus clown, then graduated Yale before serving as a SEAL, then yes, absolutely, write what you know. If you’re like a lot of us, raised in a lower to upper middle class home, stumbled through life before ending up in a shitty job?

Do. Not. Write. What. You. Know.

What you know is what everybody else knows, and it’s not interesting. Nothing personal, I’m in the same boat, but it’s true. Have you ever been trapped somewhere and some dude felt the need to babble aimlessly about his lawn? You smile and nod, maybe sprinkle around a few words like “Really?” or “I didn’t know that” while inside your skull you’re pleading for the end of all things. That guy? He’s telling the story of what he knows.

Now if you take what you know and you inject a healthy dose of interesting then maybe you’ve got something. Perhaps an unhealthy dose. Hell, drown that bullshit you know in some flat-out fucking fascinating sauce and stand back. Something cool will come out of it. Or it won’t, but I promise it’s a more interesting story than what it was.

It’s not to say that everybody doesn’t have some great stories from high school, their 20’s, their friends, family, that time they got snot-slinging drunk in Chicago, that time with that girl and that thing with that pissed off boyfriend and the half-nude chase that ensued down Las Vegas Blvd…you get it.