Necks, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll . . .
But a vampire isn’t quite what he has in mind.
In fact, Ricky has a heck of a time believing it, much to the consternation of those around him. Ricky chalks up his rapid physical changes and lust for female neckflesh as strange byproducts of his newfound sobriety. And when his rehab physician, the lovely Dr. D, develops a similar disposition after he bites her, and seeks Ricky out as her “dark master,” Ricky willingly enlists her help as a lyricist in penning a new album he must get in the can to preserve his tenuous recording contract. She does have a way with words.
Until Count Johnnie, an ancient coven master from centuries gone by, makes an appearance. As does an eccentric vampire hunter from Balkan Pest Control, a wizened old woman by the name of Edna Sweeney, who wears a green felt hat and drives a Rambler.
Meanwhile, Ricky’s ex-wife and manager, Rachel, wonders about Ricky’s predilection for writing songs that seem to focus on women’s necks. During their tumultuous marriage, he never so much as wanted to nibble hers.
But, it is a bold new direction for Ricky. Perhaps he’s onto something.
Can Ricky reestablish himself as the rock ‘n’ roll great he once was, not to mention save his house from being foreclosed on? And maybe get his ex to take him back?
More importantly, will Ricky vanquish the evil Count Johnnie, who seems to be the cause of all this vampirism in the first place?
A work of literature like Rock ‘n’ Roll vampire doesn’t come along every day.
Find out for yourself.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Vampire–on sale for 99 US cents until Halloween.
I am *excited* to announce a new mystery series featuring Colleen Hayes, an ex-con with a past who moves to San Francisco in 1977 in search of her runaway teenage daughter.
The first book – Vanishing in the Haight – debuts August, 2019, published by Oceanview press. Tie Die, the second in the series, is slotted for August, 2020. The third, Murder in the Castro, is scheduled for 2021. Many thanks to Oceanview for this terrific opportunity.
Black Wings Has My Angel
What a title and what a book. If you’ve never heard of Elliott Chaze you are not alone. But if you have a soft spot for noir a la James M. Cain then Black Wings Has My Angel is for you. And then some. Because this novel positively sings with elegant prose on top of being a classic hardboiled crime story. As evidenced by BWHMA Elliott Chaze could write, reaching literary highs while simultaneously providing the cheap thrills that anchor the book firmly in the crime genre. Published in 1953, this tale of two scummy characters who truly deserve each other, as they plot to rob an armored car and live the easy life while simultaneously betraying one other, takes the reader deep into a psychological suspense where the prospect of jumping down a mine shaft makes sense.
“The ultimate in horror is, for some unworldly reason, attractive. Hypnotic.”
The protagonist, an escaped convict who goes by different names, remains unbelievably sympathetic even as he murders and plots his way to an ill-gotten wealth he soon detests, while at the same time toying with pushing his sweetheart and partner in crime down that mine shaft. The reader identifies because, in his heart, Tim, or Kenneth—or whoever he is—ultimately speaks the truth about himself and the world at large.
“Most of living is waiting to live. And you spend a great deal of time worrying about things that don’t matter and about people that don’t matter and all this is clear to you when you know the very day you’re going to die.”
Virginia, the fallen angel he teams up with, is his fated equal. The dialog between them crackles with originality, giving us characters who stretch far beyond their genre ‘types’ and become human beings we care about, even though they care about no one else—except, perhaps, each other. Tim isn’t just a psychopathic criminal but an ad hoc philosopher who knows a fake when he sees it. Virginia is not simply the femme fatale from central casting, but a woman with a mind and will of her own—and a sense of humor to go with it.
“A gentleman is a door mat with all the scratch gone from it,” Virginia snapped. “Look ’em over sometimes. They even wear the kind of clothes that fit being a door mat: fuzzy.”
Not bad for 1953. The descent this pair makes has the reader envying their passionate ride as much as he or she fears having anything to do with anything like it. A must read.
Sendero, a novel of suspense set amidst the backdrop of Peru’s dirty war, is now *FREE* in the US for download at various retailers (Amazon, iBooks, B&N etc – links below.) – Enjoy!
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Strong writing and sense of place are not enough to save this noir story about a disgruntled crook who plans to blackmail his boss, a corrupt senator. Too much happens off camera and the story wanders into literary passages – not necessarily a bad thing – but in this case it draws attention to itself and feels like riffing. But the big issue with Ride the Pink Horse is the protagonist, an unappealing character by the name of Sailor. He simply doesn’t warrant the reader’s sympathy for the length of an entire novel, especially with his racist view of Latinos, a trait which is meant to be hardboiled and benign but doesn’t wear well in today’s world.
If you haven’t read ‘In a Lonely Place’ or ‘The Expendable Man’, read those instead, and find out what really makes Dorothy B. Hughes worth reading. She is one of the greats.
I am *thrilled* to announce that I just signed a three-book deal with Oceanview Publishing for a new mystery series set in 1970s San Francisco featuring ex-con Colleen Hayes, who served nine years for killing her husband and is on the hunt for her wayward teenage daughter. Meanwhile, she makes ends meet by working as an unlicensed PI.
The first book, working title ‘Murder in the Haight’, is due out October, 2019.
Free Kindle download until 5/10 . . .
On the hunt for an abducted Indian beggar girl, Peruvian National Police officer Nina Flores is determined to track down the suspected kidnapper, a man who resembles what the locals call pishtacos: tall, pale ghosts who steal children. In spite of being jumped by a mysterious attacker, and the murder of a woman who gets too close to the truth, Nina is blocked at every turn by her superiors. Then she discovers links to a second case reaching back twenty years to the country’s dirty war. Defying the powers that be, Nina forms a shaky alliance with a member of a brutal drug cartel and heads deep into the Amazon jungle. She will bring the lost one home, or die trying.
The title says it all. Kindle Press, in their infinite wisdom–or reckless abandon–has dropped the price of THE CAIN file to 99 cents until the end of April, 2018.
Download while Amazon’s servers are still able to take the strain.
The Yazidis are a Kurdish minority of seven hundred thousand people who practice an ancient religion that precedes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and contains elements of all three.
Throughout history, Yazidis have been ruthlessly persecuted, most recently by ISIS, who consider them devil worshippers. Thousands of Yazidis were killed in northern Iraq in 2014 in an ongoing genocide to “purify” the region by ISIS. Thankfully the recent fall of Mosul and Raqqa, both former ISIS strongholds, have forced ISIS to retreat but over six thousand Yazidi women and children have been taken as prisoners. Yazidi women have been ransomed back to their families, forced into marriage with ISIS fighters, and openly sold and traded amongst ISIS as sex slaves. Some of these “women” are as young as nine years old. Many have been executed.
Enter the Sun Brigade, a battalion of Yazidi women created in 2015 by Yazidi folk singer Xate Shingali. Dedicated to overthrowing ISIS, many of the Sun Ladies were former ISIS prisoners themselves. Many are teenagers.
The plight of the Yazidi people, and Yazidi women in particular, was the inspiration for my novel THE DARKNET FILE.
The definitive book for vampire fiction is well written but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy read. By today’s standards Dracula is slow to unfold, with long, often tedious sections, including dialogue that doesn’t up the conflict or push the story forward much. The use of diary entries, letters, ships logs etc. to tell the story may give the book an authentic feel and does a good job of keeping the evil ones mysterious but it doesn’t always engage the reader as much as a conventional novel might. But the sinister stuff is exactly that, well drawn and eerie, and stands the test of time. Numerous descriptions of female vampires lovingly detailed as voluptuous creatures of death put to rest any doubt that vampirism was (and is) a metaphor for forbidden sexuality.
“There lay Lucy, seemingly just as we had seen her the night before her funeral. She was, if possible, more radiantly beautiful than ever; and I could not believe that she was dead. The lips were red, nay redder than before; and on the cheeks was a delicate bloom.”
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to read Dracula in 1897.
Bram Stoker was far ahead of his time with this novel.
A dark deception. A darker reality.
The Darknet File, the follow-up to The Cain File, is now available for download.
THE DARKNET FILE
Agent Maggie de la Cruz’s problems are just beginning when a high-ranking defector from Jihad Nation doesn’t show up for a secret meeting in Paris. Suicide bombers appear instead. And when the woman who snared Kafka, the defector, is killed in the attack, it’s up to Maggie to assume the dead woman’s identity and lure Kafka to the Agency’s side before he escapes to Iraq. Dismantling a billion-dollar Darknet operation funneling money to terrorists committing genocide hangs in the balance.
This espionage thriller may be read standalone but is also the second book in The Agency Series.
They say you have the best conversations with yourself.
How about with the severed head of your hooker girlfriend’s former lover?
When the object of desire in a story is a head in a bag you know you’re onto something.
When it’s the head of a man who impregnated the daughter of a Mexican gangster you know immediately why it’s worth a million dollars.
When the man who longs for it the most is a down-at-the-heel gringo piano player in a Mexican brothel grabbing for one last score, you know all you need to know about the protagonist.
The happy couple. Mexican actress Isela Vega plays Elita. She also wrote one of the songs for the film.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) is Sam Peckinpah’s finest film. Made during the director’s alcoholic decline…
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*** Today is the LAST day to pick up THE CAIN FILE for 99 cents ***
Kindle Press has dropped the price of The Cain File to 99 cents until April 3, 2017.
Act now to save thousands. *
*OK, you’re not really going to save thousands but you will save 3.49 – .99, which is … umm … quite a savings!
Check out the Cain File and *thanks*!
The Plot to Kill King by William F. Pepper, Esq – a powerful and disturbing look at one of our country’s darkest events.
I began The Plot to Kill King with a certain amount of skepticism but heard the author interviewed on the radio and thought it worth reading. By the midpoint of the book the depth of research and investigative reporting swayed me to think otherwise and by the end of TPTKK, although I was not utterly convinced as to every aspect of the conspiracy (the St. Joseph’s Hospital section was not as well supported IMO) there was no doubt in my mind that MLK’s murder was not the effort of the hapless James Earl Ray, but a plotted assassination by multiple levels of government, the military, organized crime, and various law enforcement agencies. I shudder to think of how many people were involved that we don’t know about. Also disturbing are the implications of Jesse Jackson in the MLK murder, and connections of the one of the characters to Jack Ruby.
Next time you take comfort in the fact that you don’t live in some third world country where threats to the powers that be are dealt with by death squads, read this book. Why the MLK assassination has not been reinvestigated is mystifying and shameful to a country that claims to be a leader in democracy and free speech. Every American should read this book.
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
A reader might be forgiven for thinking that an ex-IRA assassin with twelve kills to his name would not make a sympathetic protagonist but that’s not the case with Gerry Fagen. Out of The Maze prison after a long stretch as a terrorist, the novel opens with Gerry attempting to drink his demons away. Literally. Gerry is haunted by the ghosts of his victims who now follow him everywhere, until he realizes what they require in order to leave him in peace: an eye for an eye. Gerry has to even the score by killing his old comrades.
And so it goes. Every time Gerry disposes of one of his old cronies, a ghost slips away, bringing momentary relief. But only momentary. In order to find true release, Gerry needs twelve. (The British title for this book is The Twelve.)
The plotting in Ghosts of Belfast is masterful. The way the author puts the reader on Gerry’s side is to make him not only a victim of circumstance, recruited into the IRA as a boy by men who manipulate teenagers hungry for identity and purpose, but the fact that the people he is assassinating in order to appease his ghosts are such reprehensible scum that we have no qualms whatsoever in seeing them dispensed with. No soft-focus romantic portrayals of the IRA here. These are sadistic men who have found an outlet they quite enjoy.
Add to the story a woman and child who fall afoul of the old guard, and whom Gerry must protect, and it’s clear who the reader is rooting for.
This was quite a novel, one of the best and grittiest crime thrillers I think I’ve ever read. A true literary thriller, delivering on both counts.
The violence in The Ghosts of Belfast will not be for everyone. But, like the characters, it’s not glamorized, not your typical action-packed mayhem found in many thrillers; it’s grim and awful. And it feels very real.
If any flaw exists with The Ghosts of Belfast, it might be the very end, which leans just a bit too much toward the paranormal, after the author has done such a good job to avoid that trope. But it fits the story well, and lives up to the title.
1/26 is the official release date for THE CAIN FILE – a Kindle Scout Selection . . .
Many thanks to all of those who nominated THE CAIN FILE and helped get the book noticed. I’m very thankful and excited.I look forward to your comments.
Looking for the truth was the first mistake …
The Quito assignment was meant to be a milk run for Special Forensic Accounting Agent Maggie de la Cruz: just hand over the two-million-dollar payoff and get the signatures of a corrupt oil minister and two oil-company bigwigs. Then stand back while the arrests are made.
But that’s not quite how things play out. When the sting is sabotaged and Minister Beltran wants the two million anyway, Maggie says no.
Bullets fly. And Maggie has to run.
Back home in the U.S., licking her wounds, Maggie learns that Minister Beltran has just been kidnapped by a deadly eco-terrorist group protecting the Amazon jungle from oil drilling.
The Agency’s covert-operations section needs to send Maggie back to South America, along with Field Agent John Rae Hutchens, to rescue Beltran for, ironically, another two million.
Another milk run? Maybe—if everyone involved doesn’t have a secret agenda.
Events continue to go off-kilter: the suspicious detainment of a field agent at Bogotá International, leaving Maggie on her own; terrorists who seem more interested in the payoff money than the cause; case handlers with shadowy links that can’t be easily explained; and worse.
And agent de la Cruz must deal with it.
Any way she can.
The paperback version of The Cain File can be found here.
Back in the dark ages before Kindle, one of my favorite authors was Robert B. Parker. His Spenser PI books were enormously readable: entertaining, witty, with literary allusions for the college grads who read pulp, not to mention some pretty decent plots. Spenser was the updated wise-cracking detective, tough and tender, the lone gunman who could jump through windows or whip up a gourmet meal with one hand while drinking an imported beer with the other. Spenser’s sidekick Hawk introduced the American reading public to perhaps their first minority mystery character, and Spenser’s main squeeze, Susan Silverman (Spenser is monogamous, despite the efforts of many persistent females), added some pop psychology and sophisticated banter. I remember reading my first ‘F’ word in a mystery novel ever in a Spenser book back in the 70s—what a shock. In close to forty books Parker took a tired format and punched it up to become one of the most popular PI series ever. There was even a television show: Spenser for Hire.
When Robert Parker passed away in 2010 I assumed that was the end of Spenser as well, who was perhaps getting to be a little old to be jumping through any more windows (even though Spenser, the man with no first name, never ages). Times were moving on and we had a new cast of grittier, darker, more urban detectives to read.
So when Ace Atkins (author of the acclaimed Quinn Colson ‘Ranger’ series) took on the Spenser books in 2011, I held off. I have never found a book continuation that ever truly worked under a different author (not even Parker’s Chandler). The smudges on the copy were always too evident for my liking.
Well, I was wrong.
I started with Wonderland, simply because it had the highest Amazon ratings, and was more than pleasantly surprised. Spenser is back, version 2.0, with upgraded smart-aleck remarks and current themes. Spenser’s signature humor is even punchier than I remembered. The settings and PI tone are just about perfect to the original. There’s a new sidekick, a Cree Indian named Z, who is kind of a junior Hawk in training, but one with personal issues he must deal with. And the usual cast of good and bad guys. A cross-country airplane flight whizzed right by.
Wonderland opens with some thugs pushing Spenser’s boxing pal Henry Cimoli and his neighbors around, trying to muscle them out of their condo building. Spenser and Z get involved, thinking they’ll shoo off the bad guys and be back to drinking beer and trading one-liners in no time. But the toughs don’t scare easily. Then Spenser finds a disused, broken-down dog track by the name of Wonderland near Henry’s condo complex to be the center of interest for some Vegas hoods and a local Boston politician. When a moneyed real estate developer a la Donald Trump loses his head—literally—Spenser realizes he’s onto something big. Then come the fisticuffs, gunfights and a beautiful unclothed female, along with the usual Spenser fare. But most of all there is Spenser’s classic wit, extremely well-handled by Atkins. Maybe even better than Parker’s. I read an interview with Robert B. Parker (way back before there were Kindles) and recall him saying he essentially wrote one draft of each Spenser book. That was it. Well, towards the end of Spenser version 1.0, it showed. Not so with Atkins, however, who has polished Spenser’s dialog to a shine that dazzles. I found myself rereading much of it for sheer pleasure.
The plot in Wonderland gets a little elaborate past the half-way mark, with an ever-growing cast of bad guys and some questionable motives by the lead suspects, but it doesn’t really matter by then. When the last page came, I was ready for more Spenser version 2.0.
Who doesn’t read ‘top ten’ lists? There’s one going round at the moment where people rate their ten favorite books, and I was inspired to list the ones that influenced me as a writer. Here are ten by authors at the top of their game, whose stories reverberated, whose voices made me want to find one of my own. Books that made me say ‘I want to do that.’
10. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson) – Many a true word written in jest. Wins the opening line award: ‘We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.’
8. The Stranger (Albert Camus) – Another terrific opener: ‘Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday.’ Who says you can’t tell vs. show? Fun Fact: Camus was influenced by James M. Cain.
7. The Dancer Upstairs (Nicholas Shakespeare) – The story of a South American detective trying to do the right thing in a country beset by corruption and civil war. And then he falls in love.
6. Strangers on a Train (Patricia Highsmith) – Anything Highsmith wrote is steeped in psychological turmoil. This was her first. Hitchcock was compelled to make it into an equally excellent film.
5. God’s Pocket (Peter Dexter) – An orgy of wonderfully low rent characters, including one who drives around with a body in the back of a refrigeration truck and you just hope he gets away with it.
3. Of Human Bondage (W. Somerset Maugham) – 50,000 words too long but what words. Daring stuff for its time about a lost soul who falls for a woman of questionable morals. There’s a reason Maugham was one of the most popular writers of his era.
2. The Road (Cormac McCarthy) – I dare you not to be moved by this haunting tale of love between father and son during the apocalypse.
1. The Ginger Man (JP Donleavy) – One man’s battle against sobriety, decency and sanity. Hysterically funny and tragic at the same time. A masterpiece.
Those are my ten. Did I miss a must-read gem? Feel free to let me know.
Viven los escritores!
“A vividly described journey through Peru’s underbelly as the narrative gains momentum, hurtling toward a dramatic climax.”
Read the book that Kirkus listed as one of the top 100 Indie novels of 2012 – for 0 cents. Free. Nothing. How can I do it, you ask? Volume, that’s how. So avail yourself to the wonder of the world wide internet and download Sendero from Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, B&N. For Free.Watch the trailer. Read a sample.
I finally read this classic and was immediately swept away by the tale of young Henry Fleming (often referred to as ‘the youth’ in Red Badge of Courage), who itches to go to war, despite his mother’s wishes.
Stephen Crane’s writing has aged gracefully since the novel was first published in 1893. The forbidding atmosphere of war is ideally suited to a style that might be considered florid by today’s standards. The potent tone fits the story but the writing still feels current, authentic and devoid of sentimentality.
Henry’s character is laid bare as he experiences both cowardice and bravery in battle. Both emotions are seen as almost uncontrollable responses in times of war and the author doesn’t pass judgment, letting subtle ironies prevail instead. Red Badge of Courage is as much a psychological novel as a war story. And faced with what Henry and many of his comrades confronted, the reader might well have turned and headed for the trees as well.
Images of war are lightly rendered in comparison to modern novels but just as jarring. In one scene the wounded trudge to their impending deaths (as anyone injured in battle during the Civil War frequently had mere hours to live), and young Henry describes a soldier he encounters who has two wounds, ‘one in the head, bound with a blood-soaked rag, and the other in the arm, making that member dangle like a broken bough.’
Hemingway said that Red Badge of Courage was ‘one of the finest books of American literature.’ Reading Crane’s prose, it’s easy to see precursors of Hemingway’s own style:
‘It rained. The procession of weary soldiers became a bedraggled train, despondent and muttering, marching with churning effort in a trough of liquid brown mud under a low, wretched sky.’
Stephen Crane modestly stated that he wanted to write a war story reminiscent of the books he read as a boy, and ended up penning an adventure story that doubles as fine literature and perhaps the ultimate anti-war novel.
If you read suspense and have not read Patricia Highsmith, first of all, shame on you and second, you have some weird and wonderful (and terrifying) books ahead. No one wrote like Highsmith. Her novels deliver in the classic thriller/mystery/suspense department for those simply looking for an edgy ride but they’re also literate and truly unique. Her characters are odd, not in the quirky sense, but disturbed and wretched. And real.
Highsmith wasn’t afraid to take time to get a story rolling, as many authors are (especially nowadays) and although that may fail her from time to time, the reader has time to soak in the world she creates with those deviant but everyday characters. She’s written a dog or two (IMHO) but every great author has. It’s part of reaching for the kind of stories that, more often than not, leave a mark.
About a third of the way through The Glass Cell, I thought I was reading one of Highsmith’s dogs. I’ve already read all her well-known work (Strangers on a Train is a must-read. If you don’t believe me, believe Hitchcock who made Highsmith’s first novel into an excellent movie) and thought I was scraping the bottom of the Highsmith barrel.
There are real flaws with the first third of Glass Cell, the story of a man who goes to prison for six years on a fraudulent charge. Key events happen off camera, important characters are not physically described, and Highsmith’s slow-burn prose feels like it’s meandering.
But then Philip Carter, our ill-fated anti-hero, gets out of prison, physically and mentally damaged, craving morphine, and learns that his beautiful wife has most likely been having a six-year-long affair with his lawyer. Then the people who set Carter up come back into the picture. It seems inevitable that Carter does some of the things he does.
And the reader ends up rooting for a milquetoast turned drug-addled psychopath. I was never a huge fan of Ripley, one of Highsmith’s more fantastic characters, but Carter had my complete sympathy no matter what he did to those who treated him so poorly. Highsmith is famous for her Ripley books (and the first one should be on everyone’s to-read list) but whereas Ripley is prickly and frightening, Carter is your unstable friend who just can’t catch a break.
Stay inside The Glass Cell and you won’t be disappointed.
This month I’m participating in a promotional book giveaway with some excellent fellow authors …
If you like edgy YA fiction check it out – there are quite a few cool books to win (including mine!) and you’ll be helping feed my dog, who is (always) hungry.
So enter the giveaway and win a book! What could be easier? Besides doing nothing. But then you won’t win a book.
Check out these featured books …
Sixteen-year-old Rae Dolly is in a serious bind: her meth-dealing father has disappeared and missed an important court date. If Jessup Dolly isn’t located soon, then the family that Rae holds together through sheer will-power will lose their humble Ozark cabin. Although a mountain code binds the Dolly clan in some ways, a brutal undercurrent of reprisal makes it near impossible for Rae to learn the whereabouts of her father. There are some things people just don’t talk about in a community where speed has replaced moonshine as the economic engine and drug of choice. Rae’s father is one of them.
After sustaining a ferocious beating, Rae finally sways her criminal uncle Teardrop over to her side and the novel takes an even darker turn as we head into the mountains in the middle of winter to learn the truth about Rae’s father.
The plot of Winter’s Bone is straightforward and economic, with all the tension of a thriller, as Rae goes from one grim haunt to another asking questions no one wants to answer. In less than two hundred pages Daniel Woodrell’s rich yet gritty prose builds a momentum that is part suspense, part parable. The writing is stripped down and minimalist in places but also functions on a literary level, leaving powerful images rippling in the reader’s mind without getting in the way of Woodrell’s noir narrative. This is no run-of-the-mill page turner. The characters are tough but tender, sympathetic without being sentimental. Rae’s two little brothers and emotionally damaged mother are only two examples of people confined to a world who aren’t stereotypes.
If there’s any criticism of this book, it’s that the storyline is possibly too direct in places, almost predictable, like a mystery where the protagonist is taken through required confrontations and scenes, and readers of the genre might see this as somewhat underdeveloped. But the originality of the writing, authenticity of setting, and the story questions raised more than make up for that. In Winter’s Bone, less is more. Life is unforgiving in Rae’s world but love for family is just as strong, if not stronger.
When the soldiers shoot her father, a sixteen-year-old girl takes an oath – along with the name the rebels give her.
‘Inez’ avenges her father. Then she’s ready to move on.
But it’s not that simple. They say she can’t just walk away.
‘Inez’ has one final mission: to deliver a package to a mysterious contact in the City of Fury – Buenos Aires.
What can possibly go wrong?
Murder. Kidnapping. Betrayal.
This all ages mystery/suspense/thriller takes the reader on a treacherous journey across a continent to the end of the world, with twists and turns to keep anyone guessing. Read the first chapters at Amazon.
This is my second post in a row dealing with the passing of one of my heroes. I must be getting to that age. But I remember when I first heard the Velvet Underground churning their way through ‘Waiting for the Man’, a song about scoring heroin on the streets of New York. Nothing romantic about it, just waiting for a dealer who was never early, always late, in a place where you didn’t belong. I loved the low-fi attack, the monotone vocal, the simple, chunking chords, the lack of a guitar solo. It was dark and powerful and refreshing because it was so counter to the psychedelic confection the record companies were putting out, the dishonest fluff we were listening to. While we thought we might be part of something that didn’t exist.
The Velvet Underground weren’t pretending at peace and love.
‘Waiting for the Man’ came right after ‘Sunday Morning’, a pretty, sad little song, on an album that dealt with drugs, taboo sexuality, loneliness, the other side of life. The Velvets had more than one way of saying the things our parents didn’t want us to hear. Their thumping dirges drove a battered poetry deep into our ears, words we would take with us until we found our own voices. More than hypnotic, the Velvets put into words the thoughts that were brewing in our heads. Even if we didn’t quite understand them at the time. And because we didn’t quite understand them.
Lou Reed was the voice we heard on that record, whose world-weary snarl emanated from the electroshock his parents subjected him to in order to ‘cure’ him of his bisexuality. Yes, there was Nico as well, channeling a damaged Marlene Dietrich, but the Velvet Underground was really about Lou Reed. He wrote almost all of that album, a lot of it when he was fifteen. He didn’t run scared like he was supposed to; he came back and yelled—well, droned—about how it was for a lot of kids in the 60s and 70s.
More than a few us of us went on our own dark journeys in those days. Some of us didn’t make it.
But Lou Reed made it. Long enough to put a stamp on our sullen rebellion.
Long enough to be called a survivor.
And don’t his songs stand the test of time?
Somewhere, right now, there’s a bunch of kids doing things they shouldn’t be doing and screwing things up royally, but they have a voice. They just don’t know it yet.
Maybe they’ll find it before it’s too late.
Like Lou Reed helped me find mine.
I suspect Lou Reed lived longer than he deserved to.
But he still seemed to leave too soon.
Maybe he just slipped off somewhere, and is waiting for the man.
But, unfortunately, it’s true.
After an epidemic of terrorism, Argentina’s dirty war began and a military junta ran the country from 1976-1983. And the junta did put a stop to much of the terrorism. People could now go back into downtown Buenos Aires without fearing bank explosions and kidnappings. But the generals in power didn’t stop there. To be on the safe side, they decided to clean house. If you were a leftist, knew a leftist, went to a party meeting in college, were a university teacher, had long hair, or someone gave up your name-often as a result of torture where fifteen names were required-then a government-issue Ford Falcon might just be waiting outside your front door on your birthday.
The National Intelligence System (SIDE) liked to arrest people on their birthday—another touch that might fare well in a late-night thriller.
The stories are too horrific to detail. They’re available for anyone who wants to do a search. But an organized network of garages and detention centers, right in the middle of Buenos Aires, one of the most modern, cosmopolitan cities in the world—the Paris of South America—swallowed up the desaparecidos (disappeared ones). While porteños went to see Saturday Night Fever or sipped cappuccinos, twenty to thirty thousand of their countrymen vanished. Of those that did return, most were silenced by systematic torture on an industrial scale.
If the arrestee was a young mother, there were plenty of childless military couples waiting for her soon-to-be orphaned child. And if she was pregnant, after a caesarian operation, she might be executed. Or allowed to live long enough to nurse the infant before it was given up. Then the mother might be given a sedative and taken for a late night flight over the Rio de la Plata. Where she and others were tossed out.
Argentina is finally coming to grips with this dark episode in their recent history. Today many of those responsible have been sentenced as the country moves forward.
Meanwhile an entire generation has had to come to terms with what their government did to them.
Before we smugly condemn what happened in Argentina we might look at ourselves. The United States and Argentina have much in common. We are very similar countries: made up of immigrants who cherish opportunity, a way of life, liberty. We both abhor terrorism. We share similar political frameworks. And we are also people who might let go of freedoms in order to reestablish order. Have we not already done some of that here? Who says we won’t do more-if pushed?
About five hundred Argentines are said to be “adopted” children of the disappeared ones. They are in their mid-thirties today.
Some don’t want to know their origins.
Who can blame them?
FYI: My latest novel – Lethal Dispatch – features Argentina’s stolen children as a theme.
You put together a step sheet.
Perhaps you used tools to help organize your characters and plot .
You wrote key scenes to see if it flew. Maybe even a short story or two.
You read: other works that did what you wanted to do. Authors who influence you.
You kept it fluid but did enough ‘real-time editing’ so it didn’t turn into some formless sprawl.
Even so, as you get to where the end of that first draft might be in sight, it all starts to feel, well, just a little bit daunting. And improbable. It’s gotten away from you. Then, in a moment of darkness, you think: what the hell am I doing?
What was I thinking?
That sense of story that you felt so strongly before, that you were so sure of, that instinct, is nowhere to be found. Gone.
It’s all a part of the process.
Make a note in your manuscript and move on. (I use three asterisks *** and something like ‘Fred needs more nuancing’, ‘cut this scene?’), hit ‘ctrl-enter’ and keep going.
E L Doctorow said: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
And the second time around, you have a much better idea where you’re going. You can eliminate some of those unnecessary side trips. And run a few stop signs.
I’m a software developer by day and one of the modern rules of programming is ‘iteration’. Don’t try to do it all at once. Get something down that kind of does what you want it to. Then fix it. Or get rid of it. Or redo it. Then build upon it. Iterate. People think I’m crazy when I say that writing fiction is a lot like writing code but both have much in common. Both are creative processes. And both can be iterated until you have something that works.
“With every book, around two-thirds of the way through the first draft, absolute panic sets in.”
I would love to know the source of that quote. Sounds like another Doctorow. But Google failed me. It’s a great quote, all the same:
With every book, around two-thirds of the way through the first draft, absolute panic sets in.
That means I’m right on track.
If you’re jittery towards the end of that first draft, then you probably are as well.
¡viva los autores!
 This time around I used yWriter5 – freeware that helps you flesh out characters, organize locations, scenes and details. People poo-poo these tools but I found it pretty nice to have quotes, songs and memories that apply to a particular character, their ‘below the iceberg’ info, right at hand. (back to post)
Sunset in the Amazon – Yasuni National Park, Ecuador
Oil companies have recently discovered more than 900 million barrels of crude oil under this pristine rainforest.
If this post makes me sound like a San Francisco tree hugger, I can live with it. It’s not just that my tourist sensibilities were disturbed by reminders that we live in a world dependent on oil on a recent trip to Ecuador where I wanted to observe exotic animals and lush tropical rainforest and not the encroachment of big oil. It’s that, with a little more care, things don’t have to be the way they are.
Because, if big oil isn’t checked, another kind of sunset is coming for the Amazon.
I was more than dismayed to witness the ongoing devastation caused by oil exploration in one of the last primeval areas of rainforest that once covered much of a continent.
Not even capped, natural gas from oil drilling is simply left to burn off. This flare, along the Napo River, has been burning for eight YEARS. Millions of insects perish every night, drawn to flames like these, of which there are many, impacting the delicate balance of the rainforest.
Where to start? Open natural gas flares? The illegal hunting of monkeys and other endangered animals to feed the tastes of imported oil workers flush with cash? Illegal logging? Or the legal oil road cutting a swath through once-unspoiled jungle and spreading erosion and internal combustion where they have no business being?
I know I’m not the first to point out environmental threats to the Amazon. And others have said it much better. But if you’ve been to the Amazon then you know how beautiful and stunning the jungle is—what’s left of it.
The view as you head upriver – oil trucks on their way deep into the Amazon. Jobs for the boys—and gas at a buck and a half a gallon in Ecuador. Diesel around a dollar.
Bus rides are dirt cheap in Ecuador – in Quito about one US quarter, a couple of dollars from Quito to the mountain town of Otavalo. So everyone benefits from big oil — in the short term.
Just one example of the devastation in Ecuador’s rainforest. Chevron alone has dumped 50 times more oil in the Amazon than the entire BP spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. Fifty times. Damage from 1993 still hasn’t been cleaned up, despite court orders.
One solution prompted by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is that the developed world contribute 3.6 billion dollars to invest in clean energy for Ecuador and “keep the Yasuni’s oil in the soil.”
Unfortunately, that amount is only up to a few hundred million dollars at this time.
So it’s really up to us.
Right, I hear you say – what exactly are you doing about this — besides blogging?
Good question. I patronized one of the jungle lodges in Yasuni National Park, where local tribes are employed and supported by eco-tourism. At Napo, where I stayed, the Kichwa observe strict rules: no hunting, no motor-powered boats, use of green detergents etc. Everything is paddled in and out by canoe. You’re not going to find anything resembling that kind of restraint a few miles downriver in the oil boom town of Coca. Quite the opposite. This was my second trip to the Amazon, another trip of a lifetime, but this time an eye-opener as to how fast these precious lands are disappearing. If you can afford to go, it’s still the most enjoyable way to support preservation of the Amazon rainforest. You won’t regret it.
Back home: use less energy. We all know what we need to do. Our household just bought a hybrid. If you watch South Park, you know San Franciscans live in a cloud of Smug anyway.
I signed a petition to let Ecuador’s President Correa know that I, along with many others, want to ‘keep the Yasuni’s oil in the soil’. Correa is not a bad guy, considering what it means to take on Big Oil in a country dependent on its production—politicians who try are frequently ousted. But oil revenues are a quarter of Ecuador’s GNP so he’s under serious pressure to let Big Oil have their way. The more of us he hears from, the more he knows what the Amazon means to us. You can sign the petition too. Some of it’s in Spanish but trust me, it gets the message across: Email President Correa
I decided to support the http://www.greengrants.org/ who will humbly accept your tax deductible donations to preserve the Yasuni National Park and other endangered places around the globe. A few bucks goes a long, long way.
Maybe we can all live in a cloud of Smug.
Farewell Reg Presley (born Reginald Maurice Ball), former lead singer of the Troggs (Andover’s finest) who left us on February 4th of this year.
A down-to-earth man in many ways, Mr. Presley – married to the same woman for 49 years – returned to laying bricks when the Troggs fell out of the music charts decades back. When one of his songs – Love Is All Around – won three Ivor Novello awards after being featured in the 1994 movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, Reg did the only sensible thing and spent much of his newfound wealth on one of his many passions: UFO and crop circle research.
So it’s goodbye to the man who watched the skies above for visitors from afar, who had the artistic foresight to add the oddball ocarina solo to the world’s most famous garage anthem – the song that defined garage anthems – that gave early punk the green light – and launched hundreds of cover versions.
RIP WILD THING. My ears are still ringing …
This flash fiction piece is dedicated to Reg Presley.
In 1999, a handful of Quechua-speaking women in Cusco, Peru banded together to support victims of domestic violence and those in dire need. Las Defensoras (defenders) handled complaints of domestic abuse and sexual harassment, offered counseling, helped file legal paperwork, and sought out whatever assistance was available for those living in extreme poverty. Most of the victims were (and continue to be) poor indigenous women and children trapped in the pueblos jóvenes (shantytowns) around the city. It is here that the defensoras do battle on a daily basis, walking the dirt streets the tourists never see.
Prior to 2000 it was estimated that a third of Cusco’s residents lived in the slums and that up to 70% of the female Quechua population were sufferers of domestic abuse who never came forward. Many simply did not know they had the option.
Today, Peru’s Defensorías Comunitarias (community defense) number over 35,000 women who have grown their volunteer organization to a national level. These remarkable ladies continue to provide a first line of defense, reaching out to those who do not yet know how to take that initial step in controlling their own lives.
I am pleased to announce that SENDERO has been nominated as one of the top 100 Indie books by Kirkus Reviews for 2012.
You can find the review here. Sendero is third row from the bottom, on the right.
“What a frightening thirst for vengeance devours me.” Osmán Morote (Comrade Nicolas)
During the 80s, after an unknown philosophy professor by the name of Abimael Guzmán founded the Shining Path (“Marxism–Leninism is the shining path of the future”), there was a period when it seemed that the Maoist revolutionary movement might well take control of Peru.Inflation was rampant, as was corruption, and the indigenous Quechua population, along with many demoralized Peruvians, were more than ready for change.
But at what price?
Somehow Chairman Gonzalo (one of Guzman’s noms de guerre) was able to take that deep discontent and turn it into a full-fledged insurgency that lasted twelve years and killed, by modest estimates, 30,000 Peruvians. (Some estimates go as high as 70,000.)
The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) were matched only by their Cambodian counterparts The Khmer Rouge for creative brutality and out-and-out atrocities. Stories of dogs hanging from lampposts in Lima, beheadings for civilian infractions such as adultery, and random bombings with explosives strapped to farm animals only touch upon what the Senderitsas were capable of.
Cult-like activities including free love (but absolutely not ‘love’) and members taking oaths (the cuota) agreeing to their own death once they had killed their share of soldiers and capitalists, only helped raise the Shining Path to a level of notoriety well above your average South American revolutionary group.
Somehow the Peruvian people lived through it all and on September 12, 1992, Abimael Guzmán, a man few people had ever actually seen, was arrested in a Shining Path safe house in Lima. And thus began the decline of the Shining Path.
President Alberto Fujimori (currently in prison for human rights abuses and bribery scandals) was given much of the credit for ending the dirty war. Many Peruvians are willing to forgive the methods he used.
Ironically both men on either side of the struggle are still in prison today.
In recent years the Shining Path’s numbers have dwindled to 100-300. The odd military-style attack has been carried out against soldiers and political leaders but the main effort has been to provide security for Peru’s drug cartels. It is said that a five percent fee is charged for ‘protecting’ cocaine shipments through the Huallaga Valley, where half the world’s cocaine comes from.
Last December Comrade Artemio, one of the last infamous old school terrucos, said the Shining Path were defeated. He requested the Peruvian government grant amnesty to imprisoned members and open talks with the remaining holdouts.
But on February 12 of this year Comrade Artemio was captured in a jungle basecamp. After two bullets were removed from his stomach, he too, is in prison.
So, finally—the end of the Shining Path?
Unfortunately, not yet. Just last April, Shining Path rebel leader Martin Palomino (Comrade Gabriel) took responsibility for the kidnapping of three dozen natural gas workers in the coca growing region.
The workers were ultimately set free but only after six soldiers were killed in a shootout.
Listen to my interview with Writer’s Block critic extraordinaire Jason Stewart as we delve into topics literary and more: Sendero, Peru, The Drug Trade and its Consequences, Influences, Making it Real, Craft and, as I just said, more … Jason has a real gift for organizing questions and material and making what we writers do actually sound interesting.
The cover for my upcoming collection of short dark fiction: Out by The Trees.
…due out on Kindle in September ’12.
Check out this brief history of Peru’s infamous Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) in my guest post on Murder is Everywhere
What more can be said about a book that has close to 100,000 reviews on Goodreads?
Over 900,000 readers have rated The Hunger Games an average of 4.5 stars. They say that 5 star reviews are from the author’s friends and family in which case Suzanne Collins must have a lot of friends or a very large family. But the ratings are high for good reason: the story of an apocalyptic future in which teenagers are selected through a national lottery to battle others to the death is believable and compelling.
The first act of the book is the strongest, with characters who have depth and are very well nuanced as they navigate their daily lives to forage, hunt and trade for food in a police state that is the America of the future. It’s here that we are introduced to Katniss Everdeen of District 12 (‘The Seam’), the coal producing region. The irony of her being ‘chosen’ to play in the Hunger Games is a good twist in a book full of twists. Peeta, her male counterpart who works in his father’s bakery, is a nice kid when you get right down to it and has always had a soft spot for Katniss. Or does he? Remember—only one can survive the Hunger Games.
The theme of how one communicates and carries oneself in a world where no one can really trust another and love is manufactured is very well done and possibly one of the reasons this book appeals as it does to young adults. I found the relationship between Katniss and Peeta dynamic, full of tension and tenderness.
The book is not without its faults however. The second act, dealing with the games themselves—the heart of the story—is often told through long narrative passages in which the pace tends to sag. Many key events are taken off camera and the reader has to work at remembering the many contestants who were briefly introduced. At times the action writing tends toward the generic and lacks the wonderful detail seen in the first act. This is a surprise when you consider that this is primarily an action story. But wait, there is another twist. Just as we think we know how it’s going to end we are turned around.
All in all, this is a very satisfying book that sets the standard in a crowded genre. The Hunger Games won’t disappoint readers of any age.
Viven los escritores!
Did you like Hunger Games? You might like my YA Thriller: LETHAL DISPATCH.
Recent protests in Peru’s northern Cajamarca region over the development of the $5 billion Conga gold mining project have left three people dead and more than twenty wounded.
Despite police and military backlashes, and jeopardizing badly-needed jobs, protests are common in a country where mining is a major economic force.
Peru’s mining history is plagued with environmental wreckage, more than a few examples under the supervision of US mining companies. In 2009, the highland city of La Oroya was listed as one of the world’s ten most polluted places. Over 35,000 people were forced to breathe toxic waste from Missouri-based Doe Run’s smokestacks and drink lead-laced water from its smelting operations. Doe Run pleaded financial insolvency and had to be bailed out by Peruvian banks, despite having posted record profits only a few years earlier.
La Oroya after Doe Run
But the size of Doe Run’s operations pale in comparison to the Conga mine project, a joint venture involving US based Newmont Mining Corp, which will be the largest investment EVER in Peru.
Leading German environmental engineer Reinhard Seifert has called the Conga mine project an ‘environmental disaster’.
Peruvians are not shy to stand up and take to the streets when they see a threat to their environment and way of life—even with the economic and physical risks involved.
They should be commended for this.
Call for reviews:
Want to be a big shot book reviewer? Here’s your chance to embark on a potentially non-lucrative career:
Have you read SENDERO? Hopefully you enjoyed it…
If so, please consider leaving a review on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006466CCE
It doesn’t have to be a book report; a couple of sentences work perfectly.
And while you’re there, please ‘like’ the book.
You can even ‘like’ the author!
If you’re feeling ambitious, leave the same review on goodreads.
These reviews really do help sell books and get an author noticed.
viven los escritores!
Quiet Lightning’s next literary extravaganza in San Francisco: next Monday 7/2 @ 7:30. If you live in the Bay Area drop by and hear some cool, edgy and fun stuff. Oh yeah, I’ll be reading a new short story as well. Hope to see you there.
WHO SINGS TO THE DEAD wins first place in the ‘I’m Dying To Tell You’ Mystery contest sponsored by the San Mateo County Fair.
Pig Lit rules!
What was once the best show on TV is now a very good soap opera.
Why? Because great writing can’t go on forever and, as a time period, the big changes of the 60s have come and gone on Mad Men.
Here’s why (IMHO) MM is heading the way of Dallas per the season finale (spoilers ahead):
• Don has a toothache – another not-so-subtle metaphor that the man of the early 60s is losing his edge, with some imagined glimpses of DD’s half-brother Adam. When a story relies this heavily on dream sequence type devices to pump up suspense, it’s running out of ideas. There’s been a fair amount of this in Season 5 (Don strangling an old flame in a dream to name one).
• Pete gets beat up—AGAIN. We know Pete is the mad man everyone loves to hate but Lane just kicked his butt a few episodes ago. This repeat smacked not only of ROI (running out of ideas) but of blatant audience pandering through BBG (beat up the bad guy). What’s next? WWF?
• Don just happens to run into Peggy at the movies. How convenient. And they have nothing but wonderful things to say to each other. Isn’t Peggy still a little pissed that Don treated her like the bottom of a bird cage for so long? I hope this isn’t a prelude to a romantic interlude.
• Heavy-handed dialog – ‘Are You Alone’. Groan.
• The ‘blah’ season ending. I haven’t felt this burned since the Sopranos ended. After caving in and getting Megan the commercial spot she wanted so badly Don is that easily disappointed and enticed to philander? Again? That’s it? DD’s about to chase more tail.
• Oh, the partners standing in an arty pose. Looking out at what? An era with a war in Indochina? Civil rights? Women’s rights? Student demonstrations? Psychedelic movement? It’s not clear, is it? Probably because Matthew Weiner doesn’t know yet.
Not to say there weren’t some nifty developments (as always): Megan grabbing the commercial spot for herself (showing us a side of her we’ve not seen before), Don delivering the payoff check to Lane Pryce’s widow and getting shown the door, the irony of the sudden success of SCDP on the heels of Lane’s suicide, Megan’s mother’s terrific dialog. But all of the interesting things revolved around the secondary characters. The arc of the main story and characters are…?
It was nice while it lasted.
Pig Lit Quiz
What do the following Literary works have in common?
a) Charlotte’s Web
b) Animal Farm
c) The Three Little Pigs
If you answered ‘they are all books and you can read them by turning the pages’, you may be excused.
But if you answered ‘they all have pigs as primary or secondary characters’, you are correct!
It’s no coincidence that some of our most enduring literary works feature pigs.
And this is why the San Mateo Country Fair, which features pigs AND a literary arts section, is not to be missed.
I will be at the following events (but you are also allowed to come to the others as well).
Sunday, June 10th: 4:30-6:30 – Carry The Light Anthology launch party—followed by readings
Friday, June 15: 3PM—Sendero – readings, discussions + more!
Saturday, June 16: 2-4 PM—Author Day book signings.
You may know by now that the San Mateo Country Fair is open from June 9th – June 17th. What you may NOT know is that the San Mateo Country Fair has a thriving literary arts section with contests featuring local authors.
Three guesses who one of those featured local authors might be…
No, not Ernest Hemingway. But I’m sure he would if he could.
Stephen King has an allergy to corn dogs and can’t be within 500 yards of their consumption (County Fair joke) so he won’t make it either.
I, however, will be at several events at the SMCF and hope you can join one of them.
Here’s the first one: Sunday June 10th 6 PM –
The first chapter of WHO SINGS TO THE DEAD, the second book in the SENDERO series, won first place in the “I’M DYING TO TELL YOU” mystery contest sponsored by the San Mateo Country Fair! Yep, there’s gonna be a picture of a ribbon on the book cover when the book comes out (end of the year, start saving your money). There might even be a picture of a pig somewhere too! I’ll have to see how much the rights to a good pig picture cost when I talk to the cover designer.
I will be reading a selection of the winning entry. Paperback copies of SENDERO will be available for $12.
This just in: ‘Who Sings to the Dead’, the second in the Sendero series, won first place in this year’s San Mateo County Fair’s ‘I’m Dying to Tell You’ mystery contest. I’ll be reading the first chapter on Sunday June 16th, 2PM, at the SM County Fair Author Day event – the novel will be available in December…
I’ll be reading a new short story tonight with the QuietLightening Literary Series – tonight QL is hosted at Alley Cat books on 3036 24th St in SF – Show starts at 7:30 – $5 suggested donation – more info here – hope to see you there! QL is a terrific out-on-the-edge reading series even if they say they aren’t hip anymore!
many thanks to CWC-Peninsula branch for putting up the 1st Chapter of SENDERO – you can read it here
Compadre Christopher Wachlin (Stoneslide Corrective) got a mention in the New Yorker Book Bench for his automated rejection letter generator – Nice! – check it out http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/04/in-the-news-rejected-prizes-rejected-authors.html
DATING MY VIBRATOR (and other true fiction) – Suzanne Tyrpak
These nine short stories document one woman’s woeful re-entrance into the dating world after a failed marriage. ‘Other true fiction’ couldn’t be more accurate. We just know that the emotional misfits the author meets are out there in real life, lurking in the shadows. And we see what the author is thinking when a date pays for an expensive meal (dig in!) or when a new acquaintance starts calling her ‘babe’ after two introductory phone calls. And don’t you dare use her towel.
I am not in this book’s target audience. I am not female, up to speed with Chick Lit, and I tend to veer away from books with words like ‘vibrator’ in the title. But I still found Dating My Vibrator very engaging. The author showcases her short-story writing skills with quick, succinct observations and a range of styles. From the literary Phantom Love, with its well-executed mood of distant longing, to the hilarious Dharma Dan, which chronicles an encounter with a pretentious buffoon, we are led through the twilight zone dating world of women of a certain age. The stories lean towards humor which Tyrpak is very good at as she introduces us to her would-be beaus. Men aiming to impress an older woman might even learn a thing or two from this book. Don’t go home thinking you’ve necessarily wowed her—especially if you espouse daily workouts but eat potato salad by the bowl. That vibrator in her handbag doesn’t have a paunch and doesn’t BS.
Not all of the stories work. Rock Bottom, for example, a pre divorce meeting with the author’s ex, feels unfinished and would benefit from some nuance in the husband’s character. But Tyrpak takes risks and that’s a good thing. Not everything is going to work. Most of these stories do work and are a treat. There are enough sharp insights and plenty of bite to make Dating My Vibrator satisfy. The cover alone is enough to justify a further look.
Readers of SENDERO frequently ask whether the Shining Path is still active or did I simply make all of this up. Well, it is called fiction but I believe I portrayed Sendero Luminoso as they are today–a small group of holdouts involved primarily in narcoterrorism. And there have indeed been a resurgence of Shining Path attacks in Peru over the last couple of years although they are a far cry from the 80s and 90s during the height of the dirty war. This article shows recent activity over the arrest of the last known member of the central committee–Comrade Artemio–whose real name is Flores. Sound familiar readers?
Darcie Chan is the poster child for struggling indie writers. Her debut novel, The Mill River Recluse, has logged a staggering half million downloads and maintains a four plus star rating on Amazon with close to nine hundred reviews.
So it was with eagerness that I began The Mill River Recluse.
The first part of the novel reads well. The writing doesn’t take many chances but that’s fine—a good story well told is a great thing. The characters are introduced in a revolving manner that keeps the reader turning pages and the narrative moves back and forth from past to present without that jarring clumsiness that frequently trips up many promising novels. Story questions grow around Mary, the damaged protagonist. I was hooked. I even gifted a copy of the novel to a friend of mine at this point.
Then, somewhere around the second act, it all starts to sag. The writing grows deliberate and uninspired —or perhaps it had always been that way but the pacing and story questions up until now compensated. The dialog is painfully direct and frequently mundane. A date at Pizza Hut reads like a teenager’s diary: no irony, no witty repartee, no real danger for a woman trying desperately to watch her weight—just pizza between two adults who act like they’ve never been out to dinner before. Is this what a leading man who wants to snare an attractive woman does on a first date—take her to Pizza Hut?
The biggest problem of the novel by this point is structural: Mary has had her main threat removed and is now continually rescued by a series of benefactors. People build her houses, leave her piles of money, and tend to her ongoing seclusion that borders on mental illness. We want to see Mary overcome her past—or at least fail valiantly. But the Mary we see doesn’t have much to do except withdraw from life and give away wealth to her supposedly beloved town members in a clandestine manner. We don’t see the inner workings of her pathological reclusiveness, just the symptoms, and not enough of them at that. She reads like a secondary character.
In the third act, the story is hijacked by a subplot where one citizen of Mill River tries to attract the attention of the woman who loves Pizza Hut by setting houses on fire. Meanwhile Mary dies. It’s supposed to be heart-wrenching but it’s a relief for a character who has done little but suffer amidst secluded wealth while the rest of Mill River toils. They say that every novel can get away with one coincidence but the one between Mary and the local crazy person smacks so much of author intervention it’s simply not believable. And the local priest’s little foible—meant to be endearing and quirky—comes across as silly and contrived. Are we really expected to believe he had the sleeves of his garments altered so he could steal spoons?
On a technical note I also have to say that the Kindle formatting of this book is atrocious. There are many sections that are indented incorrectly. Throughout the book the reader is treated to paragraph after paragraph of offset, misaligned text. As an indie author I know how trying the process can be but one afternoon with a word editor could fix this. Or hire someone to do it. Half a million readers might appreciate it.
But they seem to love this book anyway. So Darcie Chan must be doing something right.
I’m sure my friend I gifted the copy to must be wondering about me.
check out this cool new e-magazine: http://stoneslidecorrective.com/
In SENDERO, rogue Shining Path members in the jungles of Peru take matters into their own hands. This recent article shows that Sendero Luminoso are still alive and well, functioning primarily as security for Peru’s narco traffickers. Suspected-Guerrilla-Leader-Captured-in-Peru
A heads up for those of you using CreateSpace (CS) to have your printed book formatted to a Kindle ebook:
I initially published my novel SENDERO as a Kindle eBook myself, using the book’s MS word files and mobipocket creator. Although functional, the formatting was correct and works just fine.
Then I published the novel through CS as a paperback. The CS team put together the book and the end product came out well and I am quite happy with the result.
Then I saw that for only $69 I could have the paperback equivalent pushed to a Kindle eBook—with many of the paperback print features carried over: professional spacing, chapter headings with nifty underlines, snazzy fleuron section breaks. For me, it was a no-brainer. They say that professionally formatted eBooks sell better too.
A month later, I get my .prc file for review. Looked OK at first glance on the mobi viewer but I now knew as a mobipocket veteran that all is not necessarily correct so I copy the .prc file to my Kindle 3G and start to page through the eBook.
And that’s when I saw problems.
A third of the chapter headings had the correct underlines, with the length of the underline running the length of the chapter title, the rest of them run the width of the page. Inconsistent. So I email CS. They were quite quick to respond, saying they can fix this, but please make sure the rest of the manuscript is good first.
I had assumed it would be—the same as the final printed book was–right?
As I start to proof the novel (for the umpteenth time now) I notice, right off the bat, five mangled words and punctuation errors. Seems whatever program CS is using to convert the files used for the printed copy is pretty damn clumsy and makes your content look very unprofessional as a result. Typo City. (Or is it typocity? a characteristic of poorly formatted books?)
So for any of you following the step of having CS build your Kindle file—beware. You will need to proof the final file again. Maybe more than once.
I don’t know why CS can’t simply give me the final word files and let me wordsmith them and re-create the .prc file. It’s not that difficult to do. Also, I’m not crazy about the table of contents with chapter titles at the front of the book either.
Sendero paperback is now available from Amazon: buy Sendero paperback
The final proofs were sent in last week – I am told 5-7 days before the book is available. Sendero the book will be available on amazon or for order through your local bookstore. The Kindle version is currently available on amazon. Thanks to all you good people for your support and interest.
I read at the Poetry Festival Santa Cruz last night as part of the SF QuietLightning reading series. What a terrific event: many great readings, lots of good music and enthusiastic support from a large audience. After a 30 year hiatus will the Poetry Festival SC become a regular feature once again? Judging by yesterday’s attendance I would say ‘yes’.
Many thanks to the good people of quietlightning who organized an SF contingent of writers and poets to perform – they did a great job of supporting the readers and our work.
Kurt Vonnegut is but one example:
“In the mid-1950s, Vonnegut worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” and left.
Final proofs were submitted last week (there was an error on the cover) and Sendero will be available in paperback in early February 2012. Books can be ordered on Amazon or through your local Indie bookstore. Thanks for waiting!
Sendero made the Kirkus Reviews indie new and notable list for January 2012.
Libby Fischer Hellmann wrote an interesting post today on some of the potential repercussions of Amazon’s new Select program–where Amazon Select members can borrow up to one book a month and authors have the option of making the book free for certain periods in order to (hopefully) boost sales. The big downside seems to be that readers might be waiting for freebies rather than buying when books are not free.
As a newly self-published author with one book on Amazon and modest downloads (yet!) my mouth waters at Ms. Hellmann’s numbers. However, it is ominous so see what the trend might be. I myself have downloaded free books I would not pay for. And I have not yet read one that has changed my mind about buying more by the author–but perhaps that, too, will change. And the rest of the world might be different.
My approach is to keep the book cheap—but legacy publishers are not going to do that. And established authors shouldn’t have to. A lot of time, work and expense has gone into most of the books you see on Amazon, and the cost does not always reflect the value. The author is frequently trying to make the work affordable in order to attract readers.
I hope that eBooks are not taking the same route as content on news sites. Originally news sites tried to charge but people simply wouldn’t pay. So news sites gave content away free with the hopes that people would subscribe. Now that many people get their news from the web, more news sites try are trying to charge again but the expectation has been set that information should be free. Hence the quality of some of our news.
You do indeed get what you pay for.
Click here to read the review.
After a few technical glitches, Kirkus now has the review of my novel SENDERO on their website. They even gave it the coveted star!
Peri’s Bar in Fairfax, CA hosts a great literary event every two months: Pints and Prose. There are featured readers plus slots for 5 minute readings by drop-in authors. I went to last night’s and signed up. Heard some good stuff, including a great short story by Susanna Solomon, and got to read Chapter 3 of my novel SENDERO (edited to fit in 5 minutes–otherwise you get the dreaded horn). A great crowd and some very supportive people.
Hi fellow indie authors:
I’m looking for indie books with little exposure to feature on my blog:
• The idea is to preview books that have less than 100 downloads so that indie authors and hopefully get a bump and I can likewise promote my own
• I won’t be passing judgment or making a full review — just previewing the sample chapters and introducing the book
• KDP books preferred as I can easily preview the sample and link
After a lot of searching, I found a great resource for formatting Word to Kindle (thanks Aaron Shepard) – Word to Kindle
Found this link, well worth a read for those thriller writers amongst us:
I sent in the final proofs for Sendero last weekend so the paperback should be available (hoping) by the end of the month on Amazon…
Sendero has been added to the KDP Select program. This means that Kindle Prime Members can borrow Sendero for free. So, if you are struggling with the 99 cent introductory price, KDP Select is for you!
Sendero Kindle eBook is *now* available for the introductory price of 99 cents.
To read a sample and/or order your copy, go to amazon.com and enter ‘max tomlinson sendero’ in the search options.
Don’t have a kindle but want to read Sendero and other kindle books on your PC or smartphone? It’s easy!
–> google –> type ‘kindle for pc’ OR: