Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hey, a new blog post!

It's been a while, but you know how things are. They're the same with you.

Went to ThrillerFest in NYC for my first time a few weeks ago. It was a very nice time and met some new people like Dan Palmer and Robert Wilson (all the way from Portugal) and participated in a panel that went very well. The bookstore had a whole two copies of my book for sale and those were gone before my designated signing time, so that was, um, uneventful.

Had my knee operated on when I got back. It's now a giant purple balloon but two ligaments and a nerve were repaired, so that's nice. I can't walk, but what the hell.

Turned in "Truth Always Kills" to the publisher for release in December. It will miss Bouchercon but it had to get pushed back after I went rolling down the highway in my Jeep in late winter. Rolling as in side over side, not upright on the wheels. In fact, one of those broke off.

Next up is a Noir at the Bar event in Boston on August 27th at Trident Books and Cafe.

These things are an awful lot of fun and I think everyone who can come should make the effort. I promise you'll enjoy yourself.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Suspense Magazine Interview

I did an over the phone interview for Suspense Magazine today that was broadcast live over some number of channels:

I'm still fuzzy in the head from trying to fly Jeeps upside down and I hope this came out okay. It's only thirty minutes long so hopefully I won't put anyone to sleep. I'd listen to it but for the fact that unless I'm imitating Bobby Darin, I can't stand my own voice. And even then...

... I'm no Bobby Darin. But give it a listen and let me know what you think. Comments are good. Real ones, not those "Your blog is good excellent but my wife's cousin makes $85 dollars every fifteen minutes without leaving the small part of her bathroom" ones. Those are just the black flies of the Internet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crash Boom Bang, or, Jeep Wranglers Don't Fly Too Good

I rolled my Jeep on Sunday. I think I went around twice, possibly three times, though all I could really swear too is once. It's fairly disorienting flipping a car: there's the "Oh, crap" moment, and then there's the rolling and you know what's happening. I think the first flip was mostly an eccentric sideways-oriented rolling mostly in the air, then one along the ground.

And it was a soft top Jeep and no, I wasn't wearing a seat belt. (I think seat belts are a fine idea but I can't help but bristle at laws aimed at protecting me, like bike helmet laws, motorcycle helmet laws, and the like. I know it's stupid and indefensible, but if it weren't for the law, I'd probably be a seat belt wearer.) (I do make my kids wear the things, though. It's just a personal view.)

I refused the ambulance service because I had to get to the mountain and time a race. Fortunately it was a smaller one, and when I finally got to the ER, the stitched my left ear back to my face (there was about an inch gap), stitches over my right eye, and a really, really painful sprained neck.

I'm a bit worried about the neck but presumably I'll heal, not so for the totaled Jeep, which fortunately came to rest on its three remaining wheels.

Anyway, I hate cars. I hate their limited lifespans, their drain on the monthly expenses, the maintenance, being a slave to up and down gas prices, but damnit, if there's such a thing as just a fun, rugged car, it's a Jeep Wrangler. And it did it's job. The airbags didn't even deploy. Why? Because it's a Jeep, damnit.

Of course, the obvious problem is that I'm down an expensive automobile. More hardship. Oh, well. I could have been ejected and subsequently crushed, I could have slid upside down, any number of far worse things could have happened. I remember gripping that steering wheel, thinking, "Crap! I'm rolling!"

It made me think of all these silly movie scenes where people jump off cliffs or some such thing, bicycling their arms and legs, yelling "Whoooooaaaa!" Doesn't happen. I was a skydiver for many, many years with thousands of jumps. Stuff happens. You survive or you don't. I'm convinced that either you panic in these situations and just surrender yourself to the fates, or your mind instantly flicks to what's important. In this case, for me, that was holding onto that damned steering wheel. Beyond that I had no control of the situation whatsoever.

I think that's important for writers to realize: the mind goes to what's important for survival, not to making silly arm and leg motions and silly exclamations. There's plenty of time for saying, "Damn, my Jeep is totaled." As much as I could love a car, which actually isn't very much, I loved that Jeep. But hey, any crash you walk away from....

It was 6:30 in the morning, the roads were very slick, poorly plowed, and the tracks of the previous traffic pulled the "cleared" portion too close to the exit ramp. I think what happened was I caught the paint for the ramp, which meant I was more to the right than normal, sharpening the curve that 's right there--the police said that that spot was the biggest accident site in town--and the back end started to go. I tried to correct and go up the ramp as it was a straighter shot. But one of the front wheels caught the median and after that the Wright Brothers would have been embarrassed to watch.

I'd be shocked, pleasantly so, if this isn't going to cost me money, but I'm sure somehow it will. My head is bandaged like a turban and I look ridiculous. Add to that the Hawaiian style shirt I'm wearing--it's a button down I don't have to slip over the head bandaging--and I am officially ridiculous. But more alive than my Jeep. And I suppose that's a good thing.

And I didn't wave my arms and legs, didn't yell "Whoooooaaaaa!", didn't throw my arm in front of my face accepting the inevitable: I proved my point, and I've done it before, that when faced with situations like this, the mind goes to a place that's best for survival. The rest is Hollywood drivel. What's real is that Jeep's weren't meant to fly, and damn, does my neck hurt.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

If Time is the Fire in Which We All Burn...

...then I should be roasting much better in a few months after I catch up on a bunch of things that coaching high school sports (that stuff goes on every day!) and an over-full plate left me buried alive under way too many projects.

Now--or in a little while--I'll be able to devote more time to writing itself, and not to doing things to promote books. Other people's books, anyway. I'll still write introductory essays, I believe--next one for a July Peter Rabe release, a collection of his latter three Daniel Port books--and I'll have more time to write my own books.

My next one is called--at the moment--Truth Always Kills, mostly because I completely suck at coming up with titles, is due out in September. I have a short story to finish for an anthology based on a rock-n-roll band that grew up around the same time as I did in good old Minneapolis, an editorial gig for a very, very patient new author, a trip to Manhattan for ThrillerFest where I'll be on some as yet unknown panel, a trip to Bouchercon in Raleigh where I've been invited to be on a panel that is tentative until the schedule is finalized in a few months, and on and on.

There's a piece on my father's passing that I'd like to finish, too. That one won't be easy for any number of reasons. Writing about one's family is probably not the smartest idea, writing honestly about one's family is probably a terrible idea, writing honestly about my own family is probably a Titanic-sized "Oh, the humanity" sort of disaster. Still, there are things to be said and I'd love to place it in a literary magazine where no one my family knows, let alone my family, would ever discover it. Still, there's a risk, but you can only absorb so much enmity before your cup runneth over and the rest is just so much spillage. And there's no guarantee of anyone publishing it anyway.

Is the National Enquirer still around? Do they pay anything if you don't include a Kardashian photo? I could wear a meat dress for my author photo.

I hope to actually put time here again, as well as work on my perpetually unfinished web site. Anyway, here's a post, stuff's going on, and if anyone cares, feel free to comment. It gets lonely out here sometimes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Off and Away

I sent off a 4500 word essay to the publisher for use as an introduction to a pair of books by W. R. Burnett, author of classics like Little Caesar and The Asphalt Jungle. And a boatload of screenplays. The book info can be seen here.

All of Burnett is great stuff. One of the two Great Essays I may never write is about all dem authors that sold millions and millions of books but are largely forgotten today. On the other hand, as has been said, if you ask the man on the street who [insert your favorite bestselling author here] is, they most likely would not have heard of them. But W. R. Burnett, Richard S. Prather, etc., etc., make me wonder if I see the future of a Stephen King.

The other essay I'd like to write--only because I don't know if anyone else would write it--would be the story of the St. Petersburg boys from the paperback original days. Harry Whittington was born there, and Day Keene had a house on the beach I used to live near, Gil Brewer did much damage to his liver there, Talmage Powell....

Actually, that one should be a full-length book but would require a couple of years' of research. The sooner the better because we've lost all the writers themselves at this point and tracking down firsthand participants grows more difficult every day.

In the meantime, it's on to an editing project, tons of proofreading projects, and last but not least, more work on my next book which is due all too quickly.

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....