Saturday, August 30, 2014
I was tagged by the terrific and talented Michael W. Sherer to participate in the Meet My Character blog tour/hop. Michael recently posted his, and you should check it out: http://www.michaelwsherer.com/blog.htm?post=967483
Mike is the Thriller Award-nominated, best-selling author of Night Blind, the first in the Seattle-based Blake Sanders thriller series, which was also named a best book of 2012 by The Examiner’s “Miami Books.” Mike has published six novels in the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series and a stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, which was a USA Book News “Best Books” award-winner in 2008.
So here’s my answers to the Character Blog Hop questions:
1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Zach Tanner is a fictional character in my stand-alone novella Vortex. Zach is, or was, a cocky guy who joined the National Guard with three of his high school buddies. But after his tour in Afghanistan some of that cockiness has been knocked out of him, big time.
2) When and where is the story set?
The story is set in Los Angeles in the present, or at least the not-too-distant past. It begins with a flash open of a chase on Pacific Coast Highway. Zach and his high school sweetheart, Jess, are being chased by a hot red Camaro. Jess wants Zach to talk to their pursuers: He responds: “We can't go back. Don't you understand, they'll kill us.” “They're your friends,” she says. "Yeah," Zach says, then thinks to himself: ‘The first rule of war is know your enemy. And I knew mine, too well—or maybe not well enough.’ —And that’s the problem, the people chasing him are his friends—or were.
3) What should we know about him/her?
Zach and his three buddies enlisted together. Served together. Did some bad shit together and thought their bond would never break. But war changed Zach more than he could ever imagine. And maybe it changed his buds too, but in the opposite way. Now the former best friends are enemies. And the collateral damage could be Jess or Zach’s brother or his new love.
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Don’t want to give too much away. But: Zach and his buds set something in motion while in Afghanistan that has major repercussions on their return home. Zach has a change of heart...but his buddies don’t.
5) What is the personal goal of the character?
His immediate goal is to protect his girlfriend, Jess, and get them away from his former pals, who think they might know something. His long term goal is to put it all behind them and live a normal life, after this chain of events that might end up taking several lives.
6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Vortex. And, unfortunately nothing more yet, but stay tuned for further updates.
7) When can we expect the book to be published?
Not sure. Hopefully not too distant future.
I’ve tagged three terrific authors to carry on the bunny, I mean blog hop:
Max Everhart is the author of Go Go Gato, a terrific debut mystery. He writes and reviews mysteries, crime thrillers and detective fiction, when playing hooky from teaching English and Creative Writing. http://www.maxeverhart.com/
Jan Grape is an Anthony award-winning writer with a successful mystery series and more than two dozen short stories to her credit. Her novels include, Austin City Blue and Dark Blue Death, both featuring Austin Police detective, Zoe Barrow.
G.B. Pool (Gayle Bartos-Pool) is a former private detective and once a newspaper reporter for a small town weekly. She writes short stories as well as two detective series, one featuring Johnny Casino, an ex-mobster, and also Gin Caulfield, an over fifty gal who’s still packing heat. G.B. teaches writing classes: “The Anatomy of a Short Story,” ”How To Write Convincing Dialogue,” and “How To Write a Killer Opening Line.” Website: www.gbpool.com .
Monday, May 26, 2014
It's always interesting to see different authors' processes. Everybody does it differently, so here goes:
1. What am I working on?
Since the sequel to White Heat is done and that, along with another novel, are with an agent, I'm working on a couple of different things. Two novellas right now. One for a publisher that specializes in novellas and the other one is just for me, at least for now.
The first is a hardboiled, noirish story of a soldier coming back from the war in Afghanistan. While there he and his buddies pull a fast one and now that they're back they find their scam is catching up to them in more ways than one.
The other novella is a mystery, more of a mainstream mystery than hardboiled or noir. But it does have an unusual angle in that it's all set in one location. And that created some challenges, but half the fun is overcoming those challenges. I guess you could call it "high concept".
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
We all bring a part of ourselves to whatever we write, so my personal experiences color everything I write, as every other writer's experiences color what they write.
There's really nothing new under the sun if we want to be honest. It might hurt our egos a bit, but it's been said that there are five (or seven, depending on who's talking) basic plots and they were all done by Shakespeare a long time ago. So what makes any of our works different is what we bring to them, the little pieces of ourselves that we insert, the insights, our personal and life experiences.
Even when just doing a work-for-hire rewrite job, I will do it differently than the next person because of who I am. So what makes my story and novel writing different? I think my characters live in a world of grays rather than black and white. Most of my characters are flawed, nobody wears the proverbial white hat, more so they wear a "gray" hat.
Also, several of my lead characters are people out of "time"—not in the sense that time is running out, although maybe that too—but in the sense that time has passed them by. They are "dinosaurs," living in the present in their bodies but their minds are in the past and they look at the world from that perspective. They have to adjust to the way things are today, and sometimes that isn't so easy. Often, my characters are not just "out of time," but also out of place, not quite fitting into the world in which they live.
And in my story Angels Flight, from the collection L.A. Late @ Night, Tom Holland, the main character and an LAPD cop, is definitley out of his element in both time and place when he's assigned to work with a community liason from the mayor's office, who is about as opposite from him as anyone can be.
They are also often haunted by the past. In White Heat, the main character, Duke, is haunted by his past and all the mistakes he has made and continues to make. Bobbie in The Blues Don’t Care, the other novel I mentioned that's with the agent, is out of place in the sense of not fitting in with 1940’s American society.
3. Why do I write what I do?
'Cause I don't know anything about making frappés. The cartoon character Popeye says, "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam." And it's true, what else can we be, what else can we do? And what else can we write, if not what speaks to us personally?
I write a variety of things, but most would fall into the mystery genre or one of its sub-genres. That said, I've had over 30 short stories published. Some are mainstream, some humorous or satirical and many are noir or hardboiled stories. So to try to come up with a unified field theory that would apply to all of them: I write what I do because I’m trying to understand something or get a question answered. Something that puzzles me or intrigues me or bothers me. Even in my mysteries, at least most of them, I’m trying not just to solve the mystery but to explore some aspect of society and/or the characters. To see where they and we are coming from and where they and we are going. Sometimes the road isn't pretty or has a lot of potholes, but at least I can learn something from the journey.
For example, in my story Dead Man's Curve, from the Last Exit to Murder anthology, there is a mystery and a dead body. But the part that interests me the most is the main character, Ray Hood's, bumpy road to (hopeful and possible) redemption, which occurs in the context of trying to solve the mystery, but to me is the much more interesting aspect of the story.
I also tend to write a lot about, or at least set a lot of stories in, Los Angeles. My family goes back here longer than most and it's a city that intrigues me, both in terms of its reality and its literary and movie heritage. It's a place that lives both in the past and the present and, especially, the future. There are still, though fading fast, remnants of the old L.A. of my grandparents and then there's the new L.A. that's hip and trendy and that dichotomy of the old and new, the "in" and "out" is what intrigues me and inspires much of my writing.
4. How does my writing process work?
I'm what's commonly referred to as a "pantster"—I write by the seat of my pants, at least for the first draft or two. I basically sit down at the computer and let it fly. Whatever comes comes—stream of consciousness and I don't care how good or bad it is or how much will be kept or cut. But I do get to know the characters and story this way. I have a basic idea for a story before I start, maybe even some notes for characters, scenes or other bits in my head or written down. But I hate outlining. I just don't think in those terms. And I usually do my first draft in screenplay format. Like:
And the above is probably even more detailed than I would get in my first draft. It's mostly just the scene setting, in this case the beach, and dialogue, that goes down the middle of the page, plus maybe a little action. Little to no description.
So, in eseence, that screenplay draft is my outline, but it's also a story with dialogue and as bare as it is it's more fleshed out than a true outline.
And I may or may not keep much, most, any of it. But it's a start. But for me the real writing comes in the rewriting phases. That's where all the fine tuning and polishing and hopefully the magic happens. With each draft you see a clearer picture and everything starts to come into focus.
I've seen other people who labor over each word and sentence as they go along so they probably don't have as much revising to do. But for me, that's where it all really starts to take shape. I pretty much let it fly in the early drafts and the real shaping, honing, fine tuning, polishing, come together in the revising. I might have ten drafts – or more – on a project, but some of them may have only have a handful of changes while others have wholesale changes in plot, character and incidents, all of which need to 'come together' in 'the end'.
The worst part of the revision phase is that it's an endless process, because every time you read the story, even if it's been published, you find holes that need plugging and things that you want to change, from small things like typos, to major things like plot points and characters. And no matter how many times you go over it with the proverbial fine tooth comb, no matter how many times other people go over it, you will always miss something, even after it's published.
And so with this blog I’m sure I’ll find something that I wish I’d said differently, but luckily once I post it it’s done and I have to leave it alone ….or maybe just one more tweak?
Friday, May 23, 2014
The Crooked Way: 12:45pm, Pacific Time, Friday, 5/23/14. W/ John Payne. Pretty good, but not great, 'B' noir.
Raw Deal: 2:15pm, Pacific Time, Friday, 5/23/14. W/ Dennis O'Keefe, Claire Trevor. Directed by Anthony Mann. Others like this one better than I do. More noir-ish than real noir, IMO. But I'm here to serve, so thought I'd put it up.
Joseph Emmett Sullivan: [who is being visited in prison by Ann] Next time you come up, don't wear that perfume.
Ann Martin: Why not?
Joseph Emmett Sullivan: It doesn't help a guy's good behavior.
Monday, May 5, 2014
Film Noir Alert: D.O.A., 3:30pm, Pacific Time, Monday, May 05, 2014, Turner Classics.
I think I've said this before but in my opinion this is the ultimate "high concept" story. Murdered man has to find his murderer...before he dies.
With Edmond O'Brien. And Neville Brand, one of the great movie villians. Good movie! Some great L.A. (the Bradbury Building) and San Francisco locations.
Dr. MacDonald: Of course, I'll have to notify the police. This is a case for Homicide.
Frank Bigelow (O'Brien): Homicide?
Dr. MacDonald: I don't think you fully understand, Bigelow. You've been murdered.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
W/ Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward. Remade later with Matt Dillon and Sean Young.
Interesting twist, though it comes early on.
Leo Kingship: What was accomplished by it?
Ellen Kingship: What has to be accomplished by it? Some people do things out of nothing more than sentiment. Softness, you'd probably call it.
Leo Kingship: As opposed to my callousness? My hardness? I think, Ellen, you mistake parading an emotion for feeling one.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Film Noir Alert: The Maltese Falcon, 4am (Pacific Time), Monday 4/14/14. Turner Classic Movies.
One of the greatest, of course. (They are doing Mickey Rooney movies today, so hopefully the Falcon won't be pre-empted.)
Bogie, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, the great Elisha Cooke,Jr. Great movie all the way around. Written and directed by John Huston, based on Dashiell Hammett's terrific book. Can't say enough good about this one.
Sam Spade: I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I'm gonna send you over. The chances are you'll get off with life. That means if you're a good girl, you'll be out in 20 years. I'll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I'll always remember you.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
"Pitfall," with Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott (noir icon) and Jane Wyatt (mom on “Father Knows Best”) will be on Turner Classic Movies Monday 9/2/13 at 1:15 Pacific Time. Raymond Burr also shows up as the heavy, no pun intended.
"Pitfall" is a pretty good noir film, though I find the ending undermines much of what has come before. Other people see irony there, and there is. That said, I still think it just takes too much of a turn. I'm not being more clear because I don't want to give away spoilers. But all in all, it's a decent noir and worth watching.