Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Love Fester

Moving right along, my agent got this rejection today:
  • Thanks so much for giving me the chance to read Craig Faustus Bucks' Go Down Hard. I was really impressed--an interesting narrative and a unique voice. Unfortunately, I'm going to need to pass. This has more to do with our limited publishing schedule than it does with a lack of excitement with Buck's book. Things have tightened up more than I thought they would, so we're very limited with the number of books we can publish. Good luck in finding a suitable publishing partner.
Why can't someone just hate it? This lovefest is killing me.

Speaking of love, my short story "Blank Slate" got bought by a new quarterly called Blank Fiction Literary Magazine, which aims to publishing intelligent and thought-provoking genre fiction."

It's a Cold War noir piece about an American who gets shot in the head in pre-wall Berlin and wakes up in an East German hospital with amnesia.

I was surprised to learn that they only publish four stories per issue so it was a tough cut. The first issue was literary. Mine will be in the noir issue. And the third issue, so far the last announced, will be Science Fiction. I don't know much about these guys, but they do pay for stories, which is a rara avis these days.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Men Of Mystery was a blast yesterday.  For those who don't know it, it's a Raven-winning luncheon event in which 500 readers are invited to spend the day with 50 male mystery writers (and at least two super-stars). Each author sits at a table with ten mystery fans. There are short self-introductions, keynote speeches, an award to three high-school writers, a twenty-minute period wherein the writers pontificate for the readers at their own tables, and a book-signing orgy.

I had a tableful of thoughtful, funny, interesting women and I hope they had as good a time as I did.  The two keynote speeches would have killed in any comedy club in the country, the first from Scott Turow and the second from Alexander McCall Smith.

Authors often write because it alleviates the pressure of coming up with the right word on the spot, a requirement of public speaking. So it was astounding to hear 50 of us speak off the cuff for one minute each (strictly timed by Mistress Joan Hanson), and not one of us embarrassed himself too badly.

There was an author's champagne reception afterwards where I had a chance to visit with friends and chat with "Sandy" McCall Smith for a good half hour. All in all, it was a delightful day. I highly recommend it for authors and readers alike.  Next year's will be a mini-MOM at Bouchercon in Long Beach. I'll be there!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

All of a sudden I'm Mr. Orange County.  I haven't been there in years, but in the next month I've got to venture south three times!
  • I'll be on a panel about adapting screenplays to novels or vice versa next week at the Big Orange Book Festival sponsored by the L.A. Times and KCRW.

  • A few weeks later I'm moderating a luncheon for the 49th anniversary of the Corona Friends of the Library with T. Jefferson Parker, Stephen J. Schwartz and Connie Archer.
  • And then, in November, I'll be one of the Men of Mystery in the event shown below (my star billing courtesy of Photoshop).  A lot of gas, and I'm not only talking transportation.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pongo's Lucky Day

My short story Pongo's Lucky Day is featured in Plan-B Magazine at the moment.  Check it out, it's a free noir romp to darkly lighten your mood.

On another front, my short story Dead Wrong which was published in May in Twisted Dreams Magazine has been picked up for a paperback anthology called Undercurrents of Fear published by Static Movement.  I'm not sure when it will be released but I'll post when it comes out.

Friday, August 2, 2013

My First Short Story Review

Until today I didn't know people bothered to review short stories but my publisher, Jay Hartman at Untreed Reads sent me the link to my first review (not counting my Amazon reviews because Amazonians will review anything from pots to pencils).  Then the website, Long and Short Reviews sent me an Email noting that I'd been reviewed on their site and included a little button I can display.  So here it is:

The thing about this particular short story is that I've become intrigued with the main character and am toying with putting him in a novel or a series of stories.  If anyone has any thought about that after reading the story, please let me know.

If you're too strapped for time to click on the link, here's the review:

"Sometimes karma takes a long time to catch up with someone. Is it ever acceptable to artificially speed up the process?

Imagine running into your arch nemesis years after he ruined your life. Johno’s reaction to seeing Vico enjoy the pleasures of wealth and success was a fascinating introduction to both characters. I could feel the tension between them mount as Johno makes a series of impulsive decisions that alter both men’s lives forever. I was surprised by how quickly and thoroughly Johno’s personality is revealed. Within the first few pages I knew he was impulsive, vengeful, and a little arrogant despite him spending most of that time alone.

At first I was puzzled by certain details in Johno’s explanation of how he came to know Vico. The clues seemed to conflict with each other at first, and it wasn’t until the end of this tale that I realized what was really going on.

In the end everything makes sense, though, and once I reread it I noticed a clue or two that I’d missed the first time around. I was not expecting to spend so much time figuring out the twist. It was pleasantly surprising to be so stumped by what I thought would be a straightforward case. This piece could have easily been expanded into a novella or series of short stories for the purpose of further developing secondary characters and exploring the rich backstory that is mentioned only briefly, but Dead End works well as it is written. While I don’t know if the author has any plans to do so, I would be quite interested in revisiting Johno’s point of view again in the future.

Dead End kept me guessing. This book is a great choice for anyone who like the intellectual challenge of deciphering a series of subtle clues in a short timespan."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My zombie erotica debut: 

2 is for Taboo

in  the anthology
Fifty Shades of Decay

is now available in a print edition at Amazon

REVIEWS are waxing poetic.  A few tastings:

" I have no hesitation in admitting that I don’t read horror, and I generally do not like zombies.  That being said, my curiosity and love of erotica got the better of me... I would definitely rate Fifty Shades of Decay 5 out of 5 stars.  It is well worth the read."  
--  Becca Butcher 

"First off I have to say that I’m not a big fan of zombies, and I haven’t read any of the 50 shades books; but I love short stories, and I have a warm spot for erotica (in my heart you dirty minded readers you!).  So, when this book came across my radar I thought “sure why not? ... All in all I enjoyed this anthology, it was different from what I normally read and even though there were some parts that made me gag, I was very entertained throughout."
--  Rina Lee  

"A couple of things I really enjoyed about Fifty Shades of Decay.
1) 51 different authors.  The vast majority were new to me and I discovered several, that I'm excited about seeing what else they have to offer.
2) 51 different concepts of zombie erotica.  That in itself was pretty amazing.  Hat's off to editor Stacey Turner for presenting such a varied assortment of stories.  The theme was consistent, but the stories all came at the subject matter in unique ways.
Needless to say, Fifty Shades of Decay is strictly adult fair and certainly not for everyone, but if you'd like to spice up your zombie experience then this is just what you're looking for." 
--  Frank Michael Serrington 

"This book is seriously fun and has a tremendous selection of stories. Ranging from sexy to gory to downright disturbing. When a friend told me about it I thought they were out of their mind. I took a chance and, while I am not finished with it, I have come across a few stories that were just awesome. Worth looking at."
--  Cool Hat Luke, Amazon review

"Great job, I liked the range of stories and enjoyed the humor. I didn't finish the other fifty shades no problem here."
--  Connie Lipscomb, Amazon review

"First, I want to reiterate, this book is rated MA for a reason. This is not a book for the squeamish either! With fifty-one different authors, there is plenty of variety in this collection. And while some were able to gross out the best of 'em, (me), there were others that ... dare I say ... touched me with sincerity and possibly a bit of romanticism. And then there were others that were just plain hot. :)"
--  Melissa Stevens, Amazon review

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fifty Shades of Decay

For all you zombie erotica fans out there, I have a short story in the new anthology Fifty Shades of Decay (Angelic Knight Press).   As they self-describe:

What's sexy about zombies? 51 authors answered that question with wild, weird, and titillating tales. From love during the apocalypse, to love that goes beyond the grave and back again, to love that well, never dies, you'll find these pages filled with desires demanding to be fufilled, hungers to be slaked, and lovers who won't let a little thing like death (or undeath) come between them. Do zombies need sex as much as they need brains? What would you do to bring a lover back from the dead? What if you survived the apocalypse only to find yourself alone and sexually frustrated?

Light some candles, put on some mood music, and cozy up with 50 Shades of Decay. The zombie sexpocalypse has begun...

I gave myself one day to write this and am now considering expanding it into a screenplay.  I think I created an interesting world and a new take on the culture of zombieism, though I can't be sure since I don't really read the literature or watch zombie shows.  I assume most of the rest of the genre is as far from the '50s stereotypes as mine is, but that's just a guess.

At any rate, the Ebook is out and the printed version is coming in the next week or two.  It's available on Amazon.  It's almost 100,000 words long but I haven't read any of the stories besides my own yet, so I can't comment on the quality, but you'll certainly be getting some creative efforts and if my interaction with editor Stacey Turner is any indication, it is meticulously edited.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


The Next Big Thing is a viral blog event, or a pyramid scheme or a chain letter--the jury is still out.  The idea is for an author to answer ten questions about his or her work in progress or current release, then tag other writers to answer the same questions a few weeks later, linking back to the tagger and forward to the taggees.

I was tagged by Travis Richardson whose novella Lost in Clover was recently Published electronically through Untreed Reads, and his short story “The Movement” is in the anthology Scoundrels: Tales of Greed, Murder and Financial Crimes, edited by Gary Phillips and published by Down and Out Books earlier this year.

So, tag, I'm it:

1. What is your working title of your book (or story)?

Go Down Screaming

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?

It's a sequel to the noir novel my agent is currently shopping called Go Down Hard. The initial responses I got from publishers were lengthy rave rejections.  They all wanted to see my next book but had little to say about the first one that revealed why they wouldn't buy it.  I think they wanted more suspense.  Go Down Hard is a pretty straightforward hard-boiled mystery about a writer who looks into a twenty-year-old rock-and-roll murder and stirs the killer to strike again.  There's a bit of action but no serious jeopardy.  So I decided to develop the sequel as a suspense novel.

The first book was written in the first person present in the voice of Nob Brown, an ex-cop, bottom-feeding crime writer for the tabloids.  When I started the sequel, Go Down Screaming, I began to tire of being inside Nob's head, so I switched narrators to his best friend (with benefits), an LAPD Lieutenant Detective named Gloria Lopes (rhymes with "hopes").  Writing first person in a woman's voice made the writing much more exhilarating.  And, surprisingly, the women in my writers group liked her better than Nob.

Getting back to the question at hand, now that I had my protagonist/narrator I came up with various scenarios to put her in jeopardy and picked the one that seemed to offer the most fun for me as a writer.  Gloria encounters a psychopathic murderess she caught eighteen years earlier who just got paroled.  The killer has spent almost two decades in prison plotting to seek revenge for her arrest. This basic premise was only a jumping off point.  The story evolved as Gloria interacted with her antagonist.  I'm not an outliner, I'm a seat-of-the-pantser (a reaction against decades of writing treatments for clueless network execs when I made my living as a TV writer).  This writing strategy tends to nurture plots into thickets but with constant attention, they can be trimmed into some semblance of topiary.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?

Noir Mystery/Suspense

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

LAPD Lieutenant Detective Gloria Lopes = Rooney Mara or Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain
Nob Brown = James Franco or Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or Johnny Depp

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When vicious mass murderess Billie Breech is paroled, the life of LAPD Lieutenant Gloria Lopes--the detective who caught the killer almost two decades earlier--is thrown into a vortex of terror when Billie absconds with the son Lopes had given up for adoption long ago.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Since Go Down Hard got me my agent, Ann Collette (along with a marriage proposal, the pros and cons of which are still under consideration by my wife), I've left both books in Ann's capable and loving hands (of course, the second is still a WIP).  

I am keeping the door ajar on the first book and do have a cover prepared (on the right) in case I change my mind.  But due to the aforementioned rave rejections, Ann feels confident that she can sell Go Down Screaming, after which thinks she can sell Go Down Hard.  The best laid plans...

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took me two and a half years, but I wasted a lot of time on a draft that alternated between Nob's first person POV and a third-person omniscient narrator.  I threw out about 30,000 words when I decided to dump the third-person narration.  I also had to make major structural changes to my story since the first-person POV eliminated many of the plot twists I had developed.

To complicate matters, I was working simultaneously on a screenplay (currently in preproduction), which was a major time suck.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I wouldn't presume to compare my work to books I admire, and hope they aren't comparable to books I don't, but they aspire to live in a neighborhood where Elmore Leonard might hoist a glass with Charlie Huston.

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I took my Writers Guild pension early and began to think of myself as retired.  Of course a writer never retires, but I was at a point in life where, as I mentioned, I was tired of pandering to the whims of TV execs.  So I used my alleged retirement as an excuse to write the kind of stuff I like to read.  And I chose the novel form because I could be my own boss.  Since the publishing industry was in the process of collapse, I figured it would be perfect time to knock on the door.

Go Down Screaming was inspired by the need to stop rewriting Go Down Hard.

10.  What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

It's a noir romp through the worlds of aging rock-and-rollers, live Internet sex, abusive psychiatrists, Slavic mobsters, child molesters, emotional betrayal, arson, murder and estate planning.  Sex, thugs, rock and roll.   What more could you ask for?

Since my books are not yet available, you can get a taste of my work in my short story Dead End.

I've tagged the following talented writers as The Next Big Thing:

Susan Goldstein, author of Hollywood Forever and the upcoming Hollywood Heartbreaker 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Surveilling an Illegal Gun Sale

I'm not a Federal agent, but I play one at the mall.  At least I did last week as part of my ATF Citizen's Academy surveillance night.  Citizens Academies are PR outreach programs for law enforcement agencies to help the public understand what they do.  They put you through a mini-version of their academy curricula, minus the most difficult physical activities.

I did the LAPD Citizen's Academy last year as part of my ongoing attempt to make my crime writing as realistic as possible, but it was nothing like ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms),  the agency that brought down Al Capone (while Hoover took the credit) among other uncredited victories.  Unfortunately, the ops that go public tend to be more along the lines of Fast and Furious or Waco.

Nonetheless, ATF is responsible for policing illegal arms, explosives, interstate and international gangs, cartels and other criminal organizations, and black market alcohol and tobacco smuggling.  The last item may not seem like much of a big deal but a $200,000 investment in untaxed and/or counterfeit (from China) cigarettes can yield a profit of $1.5 million with few consequences if you're caught.  Because of this, cigarette smuggling has become a major source of money laundering for drug cartels and terrorist organizations as well as a key entry point for ATF undercover agents to infiltrate these organizations.

But I digress.  I was talking about the mall.  The LAPD Academy takes place mostly in a classroom (homicide detectives, bomb sniffing dogs, crime scene divers, white crime detectives, firearms instructors, etc.).  LAPD does one session with a video simulator and laser guns, but the ATF does three sessions in the field -- surveillance, tactical and shooting range.

Last Wednesday, our class of 35 broke up into four 8-person units and went out to various malls where ATF agents staged fake gun buys.  We were fitted with radios snaking into our ears like Secret Service agents, and sent off to find out who our CI's (confidential informants) were meeting with, tail them to the guns without being seen, collect as much identifying information as possible (photos, videos, license numbers, overheard bits of conversation, distinguishing marks or clothing, etc.), and follow the guns to their getaway vehicle.

I'm sure, from the agents' POV, we all made quite a spectacle of ourselves, but we thought we acquitted ourselves pretty well.  I had the misfortune of being chosen as a team leader, which meant I had to direct everyone without a clue as to what I was supposed to do.  We were broken into two-man teams, not because that's how ATF agents do it, but because that way we don't end up with one clueless person getting lost or having him or her lose contact because a radio goes down.

The first hitch in my giddyup was when the gun dealer showed up with a backup man.  That meant I had only four teams including my own to follow two men plus watch the CI.  The point of not getting caught is to be able to abandon a suspect if you think you've been seen, knowing another agent will pick him up.  Of course I was supposed to be orchestrating all this as the two suspects wandered off in opposite directions and quickly disappeared into the mall.  For a panicky five minutes we'd lost all contact with the suspects and we'd just begun.  I just hoped the nervous sweat didn't short out anyone's radio.

Fortunately, we picked the main suspect up a few minutes later and were able to tail him to a car where he received a bag of guns from someone we were not able to see but whose license number we got.  Unfortunately, there were not many cars parked on the structure roof where this took place, so my partner and I stuck out like sore thumbs.  We immediately grabbed our car-key fobs and began holding them up and clicking while arguing like an old married couple about who lost the car.

We picked up suspect Number Two again when suspect Number One took the guns back into the mall to make the exchange with the CI.

Even though the buy was fake, the experience was incredibly fun and seemingly dangerous (especially since Mall security had refused to cooperate with ATF, so we were on the QT).

Next week we do tactical, where they take us through an urban course with paint guns and we have to shoot bad guys, avoid friendly fire incidents and not get shot.  I expect to come home looking like a Jackson Pollack.

The third field day is at the range where we will get to fire fully automatic weapons, including Prohibition Era Tommy guns.

All in all, it's a surprisingly enlightening experience.  I recommend it to everyone who has any procedural elements in their work.

-- Special Agent Craig Faustus Buck

Saturday, October 6, 2012

RP Dahlke's Amazon review of Dead End

I've been remiss in posting here but I know I have to be more regular if I want to retain followers, so here's a short description of my Kindle Direct Publishing experiment.

I wrote a 6,000-word short story called Dead End  for the Sisters in Crime L.A. upcoming anthology, but it was not one of the ten ultimately selected.  The story is very dark.  It probably didn't fit in.

So I was stuck with this story and it seemed obvious that Epublishing of one sort or another was in every author's future, if not present, so I decided to throw it up on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and see what would happen.

I worked up a cover (even a short story is a "book" as far as KDP is concerned).

I cleaned up the formatting of my story (basically, replacing all the TABs with indents built into the paragraph style).

And I published it for the minimum price allowed, ninety-nine cents.  I didn't know what to expect, but I figured I'd just put it up there, offer it free a couple of times, and see what happens.

I announced the first free offer to my Facebook friends (of which I've capped out at 5,000 and can't Friend anyone anymore).  I announced it on the SinC LA and SoCal MWA facebook groups and a few other small mystery groups.  And I Tweeted to my 322 Twitter followers.  That was about it.

Unsurprisingly, sales were pathetic.  More surprisingly, when it was free, only about a hundred people downloaded it.  You'd think, with 5,000 friends, more would have been curious enough to download it, even if they never got around to reading it.

But one person was gracious enough to write a review and it was positive, to say the least.  It was someone steeped in the genre, author RP Dahlke who also publishes the All Mystery enewsletter and runs the AllMysteryNewsletter Yahoo! group.  Here's her review:

5.0 out of 5 stars
A Brilliant Debut
By RP Dahlke
Amazon Verified Purchase

"When the author posted at All Mystery e-news yahoo group that this short story was Free for the weekend, I figured it would be perfect for an hour of bedtime reading.... and it was, and so much some. This very skillfully written short has all the elements that one would expect from say, Michael Connelly or Lee Child. Set in LA, it's at turns humorous, gritty, violent and poignant... with an ending that is nothing short of a gut punch. I really hope the author is writing a full-length novel, because I predict that once he gets the first one published, his fans will be howling for more."

RP Dahlke's Amazon review sparked a number (2) of emails requesting another FREE offer of my noir short story Dead End, (click on the link to get it gratis, Oct 6-7 only).  So I decided to try another free offer, but this time I included the review (below).  I pretty much marketed it in the same haphazard way through the same channels.

If you haven't already, grab the short story yourself and if you miss the Amazon offer... hey, it's only ninety-nine cents.

If you're a subscriber and don't have a Kindle, Email me and I'll send you a free PDF.

I'll keep you posted on the postmortem of the experiment.

To be in full compliance with this blog's full disclosure rules, I have to note that, while I don't know Rebecca Dahlke, I have had some dealings with her in my capacity as one of the organizers of the California Crime Writers Conference 2013.  She will be a speaker there, on a panel called "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Marketing Your Book and Your Brand."

UPDATE (10/25/2012): Two more reviews have been posted.  I did a second free weekend with the same minimal marketing and another 65 people downloaded.  A total of 16 people have bought it.  Granted, it's just a short story at the same price point as a book, but still...