Process and Cozies and Boxers, Oh My

It is finally happening this weekend: Deadly Ink 2014, held in New Brunswick, NJ, between August 1st and 3rd.

For those who are interested, I’ll be taking part in two panels on Saturday, August 1st.

The first is titled “Read, Write, Revise, Repeat: What Goes Into Creating a Polished Manuscript.” That one should be fun, because I always love hearing about other types of process. My own is rather OCD-based and I’m sure there’s a better way to do it than to fear writing a manuscript for months, and then to finally sit down and do it and wonder why I worried so much. The moderator is Peggy Ehrhart, author of the Maxx Maxwell series, featuring a protagonist who literally sings the blues. My esteemed colleagues on the panel will be:

The second is titled “Let’s Get Cozy” and is a discussion of a favorite genre.  Our moderator is K.B. Inglee, who has written quite widely, including novels and short stories. Panelists are:

  • Ilene Schneider, author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries and a dedicated birdwatcher (she recently taught me that birds can’t smell);
  • Jane Kelly, author of several N.J.-based humorous mysteries;
  • Peggy Ehrhart (as above);
  • John Clement (as above).

As much as I enjoy sharing panels with other writers, what I love the most about conventions is meeting readers and learning what they enjoy in a book (and what they don’t like – such as snakes on a cover). I hope to see you in New Brunswick.

 

 

Viva Gargoyles

Gargoyle

 

What kind of creature, mythical or otherwise, manages to be frightening and charming simultaneously? I think gargoyles have a monopoly on that category.

The handsome fellow pictured here was 50% off at the garden center. Now he adorns the slab leading to my front door, which seemed like the perfect place for him. Interestingly, the tag around his neck had labeled him as a chimera, but I don’t think he meets the criteria. A chimera is part goat, part snake, and part lion, and I don’t see any goat here. The snake, though, can be seen in his sea-serpent-like tail (not shown here).

I’d like to write a book about gargoyles at some point. I don’t know much about the science fiction and fantasy genres, but that has never stopped me before ….

On Acknowledging People You Don’t Know

It’s surprising when readers notice things in your book(s) that you yourself haven’t noticed, or when you get an email with a surprising question. On the acknowledgments page of The Outsmarting of Criminals, I thanked “Chris and Debbie, Dave and Annie, Jules and Katie,” the best tribute I could give to some musicians I really admire. It felt weird to give their full names, as that would imply that I actually know them, when the truth is that I don’t. But their music has meant so much to me for so many years, and I thought this would be a way to offer my gratitude.

But … a reader who must be about my age recognized the names and wrote to ask me about it. So, I have to acknowledge that the people listed above are Chris Stein and Debbie Harry of Blondie, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox of Eurythmics, and Jules de Martino and Katie White of The Ting Tings. To me, all of these musicians embody the spirit of creativity and independence. They write their songs, play their instruments, and in general do things their way. They’ve all become successful by being rather stubbornly defiant of the music industry, and I like their chutzpah. Plus, when I see them interviewed, I get such a kick out of all of them. They’re smart, and funny, and they walk that very thin line of taking themselves seriously enough but not TOO seriously.

Also, while I love music, I’m not a musician myself. Maybe for that reason, I stand in awe of good songs. I think a really good song is 3 minutes of perfection. When I think of my favorite books, I can say I’ve read each one maybe 4 or 5 times. But with favorite music, I think I’ve listened to those songs hundreds or even thousands of times. If I had to pay a dollar to these artists for each time I’ve listened to one of their songs, I’d owe them tens of thousands of dollars. And yet, I’ve paid only $9, $10, or $11 for their CD’s (or, in the cases of some of the older acts, their albums). So, I have this intense appreciation for music, and the acknowledgments page of The Outsmarting of Criminals seemed like the right place to thank the aforementioned people for the many years of music they’ve given me. And that’s the full story behind those mysterious acknowledgments.

Reader Advisory!

This is a big thank-you to everyone who’s written to tell me that the enjoyed The Outsmarting of Criminals. I thought it only fair to mention that my other books are really quite different from Outsmarting! I know that everyone’s reading time is limited and precious, and I wouldn’t want anyone to pick up one of my other novels and think they are getting something similar to The Outsmarting of Criminals. So, for anyone who’s interested, here’s a quick overview.

Who Gets the Apartment? is the closest to Outsmarting in terms of character and tone. It’s meant to be light-hearted, though it was inspired by reality TV. I had observed that reality TV has the goal of bringing out the worst in people, so I wrote this book to show how the same set of events could lead to drastically different outcomes–one if people behave selfishly and viciously, and a different (better) one if people focus on their better selves, on friendship and cooperation. It was my first novel and it holds a special place in my heart. It’s out of print in hard copy, but still available as an ebook through the usual outlets (Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iTunes).

Circle of Assassins is noir. It throws together five strangers who agree to murder someone chosen by another member of this dark circle. It is rather an intense character study, and it has profanity and adult situations that are dark and troublesome. It’s told through a series of letters, first-person narratives, and third-person narratives, with everything coming together in the end. Of my books, I think of this as my most serious, and I’m particularly proud of the plotting. But it’s rather rough, and NOT a book that Miss Felicity Prim would choose to read.

Androgynous Murder House Party is an urban satire. It is my problem child. There’s not only a murder mystery to be solved, but also a deeper mystery. All of the main characters have androgynous names, and part of the reader’s job is to determine who is male and who is female. This required me to write without pronouns, which proved to be one of the biggest challenges I ever set for myself. The thing about this book, though, is that the people are all sort of awful, including the narrator. (As the book opens, the incredibly self-centered narrator is completely oblivious to the fact that his or her friends are trying to kill him or her.) So, in that way, it is an anti-cozy. These are the sorts of New Yorkers whom Miss Prim might encounter, and not particularly enjoy, in Doctor Poe’s waiting room. I’m proud of this book, but it is definitely not for everyone.

Amazon’s “About the Book” feature will let you read the first pages of all of these books, to determine whether or not they are to your taste.

Happy reading,
Steve