Thursday, August 28, 2014

Doing It My Way

by Les Edgerton

My latest novel, a black comedy crime caper titled THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING will be released by Down&Out Press in early October. This will be my 18th published book and is unlike any of my previous work.

And, that’s a problem. At least it’s seen as a problem by most agents and editors. Most of those folks greatly prefer their authors establish a “brand” and since I’m a dedicated contrarian, I guess I’ve disappointed those folks. It’s difficult to find more than three books of mine that fit the same category.

Do these gatekeepers have a valid point? Absolutely. No doubt about it. When a writer establishes a brand for his or her work, life becomes infinitely easier for both agents and publishers. For starters—and for the biggest reason—such a writer begins to create a group of followers, and that means dollars. They get this philosophy from THE MUSIC MAN. Here’s what Harold Hill had to say about branding (slightly paraphrased…):
               With a capital “B” and that rhymes with “G” and that stands for ‘Gelt.’

A vast number of today’s gatekeepers subscribe to Mickey Spillane’s famous philosophy: “I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers.” Overlooking the grammatical misstep, this is what drives much of publishing strategy these days. Customers. And, books basically are marketed like sanitary napkins. Kotex and Stay Free rule that aisle.

My problem is I don’t like that aisle. At least not exclusively. I like to roam all over the store. I enjoy cruising by the produce section, the meat counter, even the refrigerators with the frozen dinners. On a sweltering summer day, there’s nothing better than swinging the door open on the Swanson section and basking in the frosty air until the second assistant manager makes me close the door and come help clean up the spill on Aisle 3. Sometimes, I even like to get outside and walk the sidewalks or take a ride on the coin pony outside.

Agents and publishers don’t like mavericks so much.

I know that. I accept that. I have to—it’s reality.

Could I change? Yeah, I could, but I don’t wanna. I like being a writer and the fun of that for me is writing about the things that interest me. And, unlike Mr. Spillane, I don’t have many customers. It’s the tradeoff for not becoming a brand name and writing the same book, over and over. What I do have are readers. And, most of my readers are fellow writers. I’m real proud of that. It tells me I’m not seen as a one-trick pony and that’s important to me. I’m kind of like Nabokov—the only two genres I recognize are good writing and bad writing.

I was told that the thrust of this article should be to share tips and advice with my fellow writers on stuff I’ve learned through my own journey in publishing. The advice I offer is this: At some point, you have to decide for yourself which you want to be. The choices are basically two. One, you can focus on series or on stand-alone books which fit nicely into a particular niche on the bookshelves.
Or, you can roam the entire store. The first choice has a much greater chance of achieving financial success. The second choice has a good chance of not making so much money, but of perhaps having more of that “fun” writing used to represent when you began. Of course, for a lot of folks, having a lot of customers and making a pile of money represents that ol’ “fun” thing to them. And I’m not denigrating that in the least. It just doesn’t fit my own definition.

My only desire and goal in writing novels is that each one is better than the last. I achieved what I consider critical success with my last book, The Rapist. When a guy like Ken Bruen says it’s one of the best things he’s read and “cries out to be a movie,” the temptation is to write another book just like it. But I can’t do that. If I did that, I would be Mickey Spillane. And, unlike Mr. Spillane, it isn’t customers I’m after. It’s writing a better book than I ever have. And, for me that doesn’t mean to keep on writing the same book. I don’t see how one can do that by writing a similar book. I don’t feel I can go any deeper into that particular subject matter than I have. So, I decided to write the funniest book I was capable of. The book I’m working on now? Well, it’s very different from either The Rapist or The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping. I won’t talk about it here. I’ve found if I talk about a book I’m working on I kind of lose steam. I’ve already “written” it by talking about it to others. All I’ll say is that it may not appeal to the folks who liked Kidnapping. Then again, maybe it will. I don’t know and I don’t care.

Hopefully, without being pretentious, I compare myself to Miles Davis. For you jazz fans who are familiar with both Miles and Dizzy Gillespie, here’s the difference between them. Miles kept stepping outside his comfort zone and trying new forms of music. Dizzy took the other route. He found an area that appealed to lots of people and simply kept on making the same kind of music. He did keep getting better. But, he didn’t really step outside his brand. Miles did. Often with disastrous results. Both were hugely successful, but Miles may have become even more so if he’d only kept making the same kind of music. But, he didn’t. I don’t presume to compare myself talent-wise to either, but only in their approach to their art.

And that’s the choice I think most writers have to make for themselves. Should I write for sales or should I write what I want to write regardless of sales. If you choose my path, be aware that agents may not swarm to you. You have to be okay with that.

It’s your call.

And, either path is just fine.

Except, perhaps, to agents.

Les Edgerton has a bit of an unconventional background in that he’s an ex-con, having spent a bit over two years in prison for burglary, strong-armed and armed robbery, and possession with intent to sell. He’s all cleaned up now and you can invite him into your home for dinner and won’t have to count the silverware after he leaves. He’s also earned a B.A. from I.U. and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. 

THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING: Pete Halliday is busted out of baseball for gambling and travels to New Orleans to make his fortune hustling. Five years later, he’s deep in debt to bookies and cohorts with Tommy LeClerc, a Cajun with a tiny bit of Indian blood who considers himself a red man. Tommy inveigles a reluctant Pete into one scheme after another, the latest a kidnapping caper where they’ll snatch the Cajun Mafia King and hold his amputated hand for some serious jack. Along the way, Pete is double-crossed by Tommy and falls in love with part-time hooker and full-time waitress Cat Duplaisir. With both the Cajun and Italian mobs after them, a chase through Jazz Fest, a Tourettes outbreak in a black bar and other zany adventures, all seems lost.

“THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING is a dark crime comedy that will have you laughing from page one. It crackles with manic energy and mad thrills. If you're looking for a different kind of edgy crime novel, this is the one to grab.” --Bill Crider, author of Compound Murder, Gator Kill and others.

“Les Edgerton serves up a gumbo of sexual deviants, small time hustlers, and serious criminals in a caper that reads like a deranged Damon Runyon tale relocated from Broadway to the French Quarter. "The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnaping" is not for the faint of heart, and that's just one of its selling points. If you like crime fiction that cracks wise while offering a peek into the darker recesses, this is the book for you.” Bill Fitzhugh, author, PEST CONTROL, TERMINATOR and others.

Visit Les's blog at

Thursday, August 21, 2014

It’s Your Baby

By Lynne Raimondo

Everyone remembers their first book launch. If you’re a parent, it probably ranks up there in excitement with the day your first child was born. If you’re a mother, the comparison to nine months of pregnancy, labor, and (thank God!) finally pushing that baby out is hard to resist. Everyone congratulates you. Your family and friends shower you with compliments. For at least a week afterward, you are floating on a wave of pure euphoria. All that hard work, the long, lonely hours at your keyboard, the rejection letters from agents and editors, the revising and proofreading and doing it all over again, have finally paid off.

Baby, you’re an author now.

Then the awful realization hits: your job is not done.

You see, having produced three kids and two novels, I’ve come to regard raising children and sustaining a writing career as involving pretty much the same level of commitment.

Publishing isn’t a game for the low of energy. Names fade fast. One-hit wonders are a rare commodity. Unless you are incredibly lucky or incredibly talented (think Harper Lee) after your first book comes out you can’t just sit back in your easy chair and wait for the royalties to roll in. Just as your precious infant needs to be fed, changed, comforted, and financially supported for the next eighteen years – or, heaven forbid, longer -- your writing career demands constant care and attention.

In publishing, usually this means writing another book every year. Got that? Every single year. Unless you are Stephen King, who doesn’t have to but does it anyway.

Maybe you got good advice and already had your second written when your first came out. If so, pat yourself on the back. And then start on the third. Because if you’re ever going to quit that day job and support yourself -- and maybe a family -- as a writer, you’re going to need a backlist. And it isn’t going to get any easier the second, third or even tenth time around.

I can say this now after having sweated blood over the second in my Mark Angelotti series. In all the flurry over landing a contract and polishing my first book until it shone like the proverbial jewel, I forgot about the fear and insecurity of staring down the white page. I had conjured up an image of myself as a successful writer, one in which the ghost of Henry James – or better yet, Raymond Chandler – whispered witty prose into my ear each morning and my only job was to get it all down on paper before it was time to take myself off for a well-deserved walk or lunch with a friend.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

What I also discovered was that my time was at a premium like never before. Between keeping up with social media, nurturing relationships with all my new author friends, attending conferences and events, revising, proofreading AND meeting deadlines, I hardly had time to breathe, let alone carve out the mental space I needed to write four or five pages a day.

Does this sound like running around after a toddler? It certainly felt like that to me.

My second book, Dante’s Poison, came out in May, and I’m now finishing up my third, which is a lot like having another child when your first is still in diapers. That is to say, I’m far better at juggling many different roles, and far more relaxed about getting it all done. Meeting my word count each day is still hard, but I’ve learned to sit back and savor the special moments that make it all worthwhile.

My books will never grow up to become responsible citizens, but the sense of accomplishment is the same.

Lynne Raimondo is the author of Dante’s Wood (Seventh Street Books, 2013). “Stunning” and “one of the best mystery debuts since V.I. Warshawski solved her first case.”—Mystery Scene. “A real keeper.” – Library Journal (starred review and mystery debut of the month). Before turning to writing, Lynne was a partner at a major Chicago law firm, the general counsel of Arthur Andersen LLP, and the general counsel of the Illinois Department of Revenue. Dante’s Poison, the second in her series featuring a blind forensic psychiatrist, was released in May. Visit her website at

Blind psychiatrist Mark Angelotti has just enrolled in a drug trial that holds out hope of restoring his eyesight when he again becomes entangled in a case that is rocking the Chicago legal community. After defending the manufacturer of the powerful antipsychotic drug Lucitrol against product-liability claims, attorney Jane Barrett has become somewhat of an expert on the controversial medication. So when her lover, investigative journalist Rory Gallagher, collapses from a fatal dose of the same drug, it falls to Hallie Sanchez, Barrett’s oldest friend, to defend her on murder charges. Amid growing doubts about her friend’s innocence, Hallie recruits Mark Angelotti to help her discredit the testimony of a crucial eyewitness. The pair succeeds in obtaining Barrett’s release, but at a dreadful price. Mark sets out to investigate who else may have wanted the journalist out of the way. As he gets closer to the truth, he realizes the killer is still on the loose. But two questions remain for Mark: Will the drug trial succeed in restoring his eyesight? More important, will he live long enough to see this case to its end?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Outlining: The Best Friend You've Never Met

by Grant Blackwood

For better or worse, stubbornness comes as a standard feature in a writer's brain. It's like that mysterious undercoating for your new car. You can tell the dealership you don't want it, but you get it anyway.

In my case, stubbornness was that welcome hand at my back, pushing me along. Stubbornness also kept me unpublished for more years than I care to think about. Stubbornness kept me away from outlining.

I wanted to be one of "those" writers, the kind that flies by the seat of his pants, churning out fantastic stories by simply dumping his imagination onto paper. Nine long years into the process I realized I wasn't one of "those" writers. I needed a plan for my novel, so I turned to outlining. And the first book I outlined got published.

Consider this analogy: A woodworker decides to build a beautiful armoire. He drives to the hardware store, grabs random boards and handfuls of nails, then returns home, dumps his supplies on the garage floor like a piles of pick-up-sticks and starts hammering away. What are the chances he'll end up with the armoire he envisioned? You know the answer. Had the woodworker followed a plan his chances of succeeding would have skyrocketed. The same goes for a writer tackling a novel — arguably a much more complex project than an armoire.

Let's look at why I resisted outlining and why most writers do:
  • Outlining is too formal, too restrictive.
  • Outlining will suck all the fun out of the process.
  • Outlining will rob me of the journey of discovery.
None of these are necessarily true. Let's look at what an outline can be:
  • A page of bullets highlighting the most critical parts of the story.
  • A mini-story that runs from five pages to forty pages.
  • A loose flow chart of scenes and chapters.
  • A formal outline with roman numerals and letters.
An outline is whatever you want it to be. It's simply the blueprint or roadmap of your story containing things like:

Character motivations and goals
  • Plot points large and small, from beats that drive your scenes along to pivot points that take the plot in a wholly different direction.
  • Bits of characterization or setting that further immerse the reader into your story.
  • Brief descriptions of a character's arc.
The benefits of outlining your story are myriad: It lets you identify small mistakes you can fix without having to rewrite hundred of pages; it lets you see the flow of your plot, from the beginning, through the middle, and to the end; it helps you smooth out continuity issues (imagine a twisting row of ten thousand dominos) that would otherwise turn into untamable monsters on page 500. (Forgive the mixed metaphor); outlining trains your mind to be an "on the fly" planner so in later years you can in fact be one of "those" writers.

Fear not outlining. To use yet another more literary metaphor from Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, outlining is every writer's Boo Radley, that scary neighbor that turns out to be your best friend.

The New York Times bestselling author of the Briggs Tanner series, (The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War) Grant Blackwood is also the co-author of the Fargo Adventure Series (Spartan Gold, Lost Empire, and The Kingdom) with Clive Cussler, as well as the co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller, Dead or Alive, with Tom Clancy, and the new thriller, The Kill Switch, with James Rollins.  A U. S. Navy veteran, Grant spent three years aboard a guided missile frigate as an Operations Specialist and a Pilot Rescue Swimmer. Grant lives in Colorado, where he is working his own standalone series starring a new hero.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in August, which means debut releases. Please take a look and let’s celebrate their success!

Carrie Stuart Parks - A Cry From the Dust (Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins Christian) August 12, 2014

In the shadow of the Mormon church, a 19th-century conspiracy is about to be shattered by a 21st-century forensic artist. In 1857, a wagon train in Utah was assaulted by a group of militant Mormons calling themselves the Avenging Angels. One hundred and forty people were murdered, including unarmed men, women, and children. The Mountain Meadows Massacre remains controversial to this day—but the truth may be written on the skulls of the victims.
When renowned forensic artist Gwen Marcey is recruited to reconstruct the faces of recently unearthed victims at Mountain Meadows, she isn’t expecting more than an interesting gig . . . and a break from her own hectic life. But when Gwen stumbles on the ritualized murder of a young college student, her work on the massacre takes on a terrifying new aspect, and research quickly becomes a race against modern-day fundamentalist terror.
As evidence of a cover-up mounts—a cover-up spanning the entire history of the Mormon church—Gwen finds herself in the crosshairs of a secret society bent on fulfilling prophecy and revenging old wrongs.
Can a forensic artist reconstruct two centuries of suppressed history . . . before it repeats itself?
In A Cry from the Dust, Carrie Stuart Parks utilizes her own background as a celebrated, FBI-trained forensic artist to blend fact and fiction into a stunning mystery.

Richard Torregrosso - Terminal Life (Oceanview Publishing) July 1, 2014
Luke Stark, a Special Forces veteran, returns home from his second tour in Afghanistan to learn that his wife has been mysteriously murdered and his son has disappeared. These tragedies, in addition to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, push him over the edge. He has also been diagnosed with an incipient form of cancer, but he forgoes treatment, a decision that is akin to a slow suicide. Although he languishes in a shelter, he wears an impeccable suit, an eccentric characteristic that sets him apart from his fellow down-and-outers and just about everybody else. He is nicknamed, somewhat ironically, The Suited Hero.
Revenge and the search for his son spark a kind of rebirth in him that is as cathartic as it is brutal. This leads him into the dangerous world of illegal prescription drug distribution, where nobody in this gripping mystery crime thriller- not even some family members-is who they appear to be.

And a special announcement for an alumni Debut Author:

Cathy Perkins - CYPHER (Red Mountain Publishing) August 12, 2014
Cara Wainwright thinks life can’t get tougher when her mother's cancer becomes terminal—until she returns home from the hospital and finds a courtyard full of police officers and her houseguests dead.

Greenville, SC Detective David Morris, is unsure if Cara is the suspect or the intended murder victim. As he searches for insight into her family, their mounting secrets, and the conflicting evidence from multiple crimes, his attraction to Cara complicates his investigation. Is the lure need, manipulation—or real?

While David pursues forensic evidence, Cara pushes for answers about her father's possible involvement, for at the center of the mystery stands Cypher—the company her father built and will take any measures to defend.

When the assassin strikes at the heart of the family, Cara and David have to trust each other and work together to stop the killer before he eliminates the entire Wainwright dynasty.