Monday, January 26, 2015

New Bloggers

Today for school we are setting up two new blogs, one for my daughter Sabrina and the other for my son, Ricky, aka Ricky Bobby. Sabrina's will be called Rainbow Spots and Ricky's will be Dot-Dot-Dot.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Work in Progress

No, not the book-in-progress kind of work in progress--though that one's out there, set for release later in the year--but as I haven't posted anything in too long, I have a recurring thought with no solution. I thought I'd at least put the "problem" down, and continue to mull over what, if anything, to do.

There comes a point in any bibliophile's life where, as they continue to age, they accumulate more books than they may be able to read. In my case, I read so many books for other people, books as research for various introductions or essays, books to edit, books to proofread, books recommended by friends, that the past few years I very rarely get to choose what book I'm going to read for no other reason than I think it's time to read it--now.

But in the meantime, books continue to dribble in: the next books by favorite authors, next books in a series, books that are new and are compellingly interesting, Library of America subscription volumes....

What do you do?

I lived in libraries as a kid but then I stopped using them because for some reason I developed a strong aversion to reading with a deadline. That's when I started buying books instead of borrowing them with attached due dates.

Buying books quickly became like comfort food; when you're feeling down, you treat yourself to a new book. There's also pressure on some books to pick up that hardcover before it goes out of print and you're forced to paperback or the crapshoot of the used book market (although many times that works out beautifully). So they keep rolling in. The mailman knows your name, the UPS drivers know more, you're on a first name basis with the FedEx drivers.

And before you know it, usually after you're well out of shelf space, you realize you've built something. It's a library of sorts, and also a haven. It's a room full of atmosphere where you can browse for hours on end, taking books down, leafing through them, reading a bit, then putting them back on the shelf. You've created and curate an environment, one in which you can relax, write or create your own work, inhale the wonderful smell of books both old and new, and, just relax.

How important is this? Are people with racks of model cars, carefully painted and decaled to mirror every NASCAR machine of the past decade experiencing the same thing? Stamp and coin collectors--and some rare book collectors, too--must be attracted by the intrinsic worth of what they're collecting. I have some rare books, some with nice autographs, etc. but mostly, it's a collection of all sorts of books of the sort that interest, um, me.

And that's it. Right now I have no shelf space and a garage full of lumber. I am a bibliophile. I am some sort of collector, hopefully somewhere south of HoarderLand. I want to read every book I have, unless of course I start it and it's a throw-across-the-room book--those happen. But what if I don't? What if I can't?

Do I divest? Do I maintain the environment of my library? When my son was nine he asked if he could have all my books when I die. Clearly there's an appeal there, and he's not even a big reader (though I am trying so hard...). One of the sad facts is that if I sold off all the books, they wouldn't bring in nearly as much as was originally spent on them, kind of like buying a new car and turning around and trying to re-sell it. You're going to take a bath financially.

Clearly it's not about the money. It's about the books, baby, the books. And the environment the give, the atmosphere they exist in, the pocket of the world that I control because I've made it with the selection of the thousands of books I've brought into the home. But books are made to be read and circling back to the original question, what does one do when one cannot maintain the pace of reading with the pace of acquisition?

In the future, I don't know. Like I said, I have no answer as of yet. In the meantime, the only thing I can do right now is the obvious: build more shelves.

And then more. And....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Wonderful Re-post from Ed Gorman's Blog

Three Novels by Peter Rabe - Stark House

Ed here: Before we get to the extremely important Peter Rabe trio I want to give a shout-out to the man who wrote the single best utterance I've ever read about Rabe. That would be Rick Ollerman. And that utterance leads off this trilogy.

Rick's got cred not only as one of the savviest and wisest critics you'll find anywhere; he also has the same kind of cred as a novelist. A while back Stark House published two of Rick's novels Turnabout and Shallow Secrets. If Gold Medal was still in business today these would be in their top ten bestseller list. The key word here is "today" because while the noirish elements may echo the Gold Medal masters the stories and the settings are very much contemporary. Nastily so. You want grim, you want fast-paced, you want in-your-face moments you'll find them here. But you'll also find nuanced characters and a style that serves the story yes but is capable of giving us real resonance and even a kind of ugly beauty.  I not only enjoyed them I admired them.

From Stark House:

Daniel Port Omnibus 1: Dig My Grave Deep / The Out is Death / It’s My Funeral

  • 978-1-933586-65-6
  • Peter Rabe created the archetypical gangster in Daniel Port and wrote about him in six different thrillers. These first three books introduce us to Port and his criminal world. Here is Port the mastermind, trying to get out of the racket he helped create, and Port the savior, defending an old criminal against a younger, meaner hood. Rick Ollerman provides another one of his exceptional introductions. Pub date: November 2014.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blog Hopping

It's been too long since I've posted but like Calvin told Hobbes, if the good lord only takes you when you're ready, I'm so far behind I will never die. Deaths in family, illness, lack of good sense--all the usual suspects are in play.

Anyway, the great crime writer Charlie Stella tagged me with the current blog hoppy thing going around, where each writer tagged has to answer four questions and then pass it on to two others. I've passed the questions on so that may be two friends lost, but then again, the questions aren't too difficult. Here they are:

What am I working on?
Currently I am working on a long introduction for a pair of books by Ed Gorman. That's supposed to be followed up immediately by an intro for W. R. Burnett and another for Frank Kane. My book comes out in September and the next one is sitting here in first draft form daring me to finish it before it's release date next year.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Every writer brings a different voice to the genre. At least most of them do. I still come across books that seem to have actually no original content and then leave marks on my wall after I throw them. I like to think that by playing with points of view and revealing things to the characters and the reader at different times, there's a different sort of suspense that can be created. I also try to make the reader feel something by finding those situations that have scared me, and then putting those in the book. For instance, in Shallow Secrets I have a car being followed by another car at night time without their headlights on. The folks in the first car know they're being followed, but what are they supposed to do? Pull over? Try to lose them? Put this in a very rural setting and it can be a scary thing.

Why do I write what I do?
For two reasons: I'm a great fan of the genre, and I don't know if I could write in another one, at least not without a lot of studying and self-education. It would be nice to write that mainstream novel that offers insights into the depths of human character, but John Irving already does that better than I ever could. I am working on a memoir piece about the recent death of my father. That sort of changes things up a bit but emotionally it's a very hard thing to do. How honest do you get? How real does that make it for the reader? Genre-hopping is tough, unless the two are very close together and you can use the same sorts of elements in each. But I wouldn't want to do that. If I'm going to do something different, I want it to be very different.

How does my writing process work?
It starts with a "what if?" question. And that leads to other "what ifs." Then I develop characters that can be put into conflicts in these scenarios. I don't outline in advance, for me it takes the energy away from the piece, but I sort of outline as I go. When I write a chapter I usually know what needs to happen in the next three to four chapters. Sometimes I have to stop to work out a puzzle, to come up with a logical reason for why something would happen. I just recently read an otherwise excellent book but for the four or five wholly illogical stops that set up the next phase of action. You can see the outline that had been created and the story did not move organically. It didn't make the wall throw but it was disappointing because the book could have been so much better. When someone reads my books, the one question I have is: Would you read another book by this same author? If the answer is yes, I've done my job.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Home Page

I used to have my two domains, and, redirect to this blog. Since I need to create an actual website, I did the natural thing and created a single page as a placeholder. There's a tad more info about my upcoming books and hopefully you'll find it looks pretty. Possibly scary. Let me know.

Pod People

I recently did an interview with Dean Abbott for his Mystery Writers Podcast. Sadly, I had only slept for about an hour and a half and would be shocked if there were a high degree of coherence, at least on my end. It can be heard here

My first two books, Turnaround and Shallow Secrets are available for preorder at Amazon here..

I love not picking titles. I hate picking titles. I've come up with some really good ones but those are forgotten as soon as I hear a loud noise. Or the sound of someone speaking. You don't want to know what happens when a dog barks. Anyway, preorders are good because it tells the publisher he should print more than four copies of the book. Okay, maybe not four, but you know.

I have two pieces appearing in the NoirCon program this year, a short story and an essay on the writer Jada Davis. Their programs are printed in book form and sold at least through Amazon. I'll be at Bouchercon in Long Beach in November. Now when I meet people and they ask the Bouchercon version of "Come here often?" ("How many Bouchercons have you been to?"), I can say, "More than one." Sometimes answers like that are enough.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

Melissa gave me this picture from last summer in a frame today. I miss you, Dad.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Friday night I came across a thing on the USA Today site about BookCon, the first ever consumer conference piggybacking on to Book Expo America, or BEA, in Manhattan. My daughter has always said she wants to go with me to a conference but I've had to tell her they're not really geared for kids her age. A large part of this one was, so it seemed like a good option.

The problem was, it was 9:30 at night, my wife didn't want to spend any money, wanted to spend Saturday working on the yard, and didn't want the distraction. My point was that it was a one day show (so we wouldn't need a dogsitter or guinea pig wrangler), it was a rare opportunity for the kids, and--this is the biggie--that we're getting old. See, if we were younger, it would have been a no-brainer, we would have just jumped in the car and gone.

Ultimately, that's what we did, throwing stuff and kids in the car, driving six hours to Manhattan, letting the family sleep in the car while I strolled through Times Square at 3:30 in the morning, and then showing up at the Javits Center at about ten after seven. Which was too late to avoid some crowd, but much better than avoiding the small country that had formed on the streets behind us.

BookCon sold out all 10,000 tickets and that was great, except that this was the worst run conference I'd ever seen. The display floor was quickly gridlocked, and this being the last day of BEA, shut down too early in the day.

Every venue was too small. This meant that in order to be sure to get a seat at a panel you might have had to spend the previous time for a panel... standing in line for the next one. You couldn't go from panel to panel because the one you were going to was probably already full.

They had overlapping times for the panels. This was ridiculous. My wife was greatly enjoying the Carl Hiaasen and John Grisham discussion when she and my daughter left to see Veronica Roth, one of my daughter's favorites. My son and I stayed so that we would be sure to be able to see Stan Lee, who was featured next in that room. After the Roth panel, though people had left the Stan Lee show, no one was allowed to enter.

Rather than have parallel timelines, they had overlapping ones, and that made for some painful choices. I would have loved to see David Mitchell, Amy Poehler and Martin Short, John Green--but the "big room" would only hold about half the number of people who wanted to see that hour's event. Then they would clear the room. Could you go back in? No, because all the while you were in there, people were outside queuing up for the next one. And it would already be full. So all those people who had been lining up for an hour weren't able to see another panel or visit the display floor--they had to stand in line.

At the end, after we found there was no way back into the big room, the only thing that worked time-wise was to see Jason Segel. Couldn't do it--the line was already bigger than the room.

What we saw at the conference was wonderful, especially Stan Lee and seeing my son get to go up to him and ask him a question while wearing a Marvel comics t-shirt. A great experience for a ten-year old. The problem is that half the time we should have been watching some panel, any panel, we were either in line or had already been in one that overlapped with it and we couldn't walk in for the last twenty minutes or so. 'Cause it was full, too.

So it ended up being an earlier day than it should have been. We went back to our hotel room/parking stall and put our loot in the van, and then walked about Times Square until the Saturday evening theater-goers threatened to inadvertently crush us. Then back to the van and another six hour drive home. We were gone a few hours longer than a day, had a good but still disappointing time, and all of us sincerely hope that the BookCon organizers either wake up or resign, because they were a loooooong way from getting this right. Other than lining up good guests, that is.

And we found that Rick Riordan is funny, but Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler) is funnier. Maybe there's something to these YA books my daughter keeps reading. I'll have to ask for a recommendation.