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My debut novel GO GO GATO is scheduled for release in one week, on August 1st, and I wanted to say a quick word about marketing/self-promotion.
And the word is this: tough.
It’s tough when you are an introvert and you want to be writer. I mean, you want people to read your work, and you think your writing is good and people might be entertained by it, but at the same time, you do not want to annoy/pester/piss them off by constantly posting things on Twitter and FB or emailing them asking for favors like writing reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and everywhere else. But alas, that’s part of the gig these days, which, really, I don’t mind doing because I love books so much. In fact, the only reason I write at all is because I want to toss in my dash of spice to the great big wonderful stew known as Literature. (Did you see what I did there, with the metaphor thingie? How could you not want to read my book?!?)
Anyway, with that said, I would like to pre-thank any and all who have pre-ordered my book. No kidding, it means a lot to me, and I hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed banging my head on the desk writing it (seriously, I did/do/will continue to do that. I have issues. Enough said.) I would also like to ask a small favor: after you read my book, if you would post an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads, I would be forever grateful. The review need not be lengthy. Even three or four sentences is a big help, especially if you actually liked the darn thing. Indie and Small Press authors like myself rely on reviews and word of mouth to gain a wider audience, so again, I say thanks in advance.
One more thing: I’m trying out a bit of a catchphrase/motto regarding marketing and my book. Here it is: If you like it, tell a friend. If you hate it, tell an enemy. (Come on, I’m funny, right? Read my book!)
Okay, so Johnny Adcock, a relief pitcher for the San Jose Bay Dogs and part-time private investigator, is a bit of a jerk.
And he is a millionaire with what amounts to two incredibly cool part-time jobs that pay more in a month than I make in a decade.
And he has a whip-smart and sexy girlfriend who is a venture capitalist and requires nothing more from Johnny than casual sex and witty banter.
And he travels all over the country, playing the greatest sport known to man and staying in plush hotels, and when he isn’t facing his one batter per game–note: that’s what a “set up man” in the bullpen does–he’s chasing down high-end prostitutes and fighting off Mexican gangsters and setting up stings.
Not a bad life, if you can get it.
Yeah, I’m jealous, for Johnny Adcock has the top two jobs on my All-Time Dream Jobs List: Major League ballplayer and private investigator.
In THE SETUP MAN, Adcock is asked by his teammate Frankie Herrera to look into a “problem with his wife.” Pretty standard stuff, until Adcock discovers Herrera’s wife has starred in a porn film, and apparently, someone is attempting to blackmail Herrera with it. As soon as Herrera enlists Adcock’s help, Herrera dies in a car crash. . .and there’s a woman in the car with him: a young prostitute. From there, Adcock gets drawn into a ring of murder, high-end hookers, Mexican drug cartels, and blackmail. And it’s all fun.
Bottom line, this is a page turner, and even if you don’t know about or like baseball, you’ll get sucked into the narrative because of the sarcastic lead character, good dialogue, and fast-paced plot. Highly recommended.
Why do you write?
THANE: Well to be honest (and I assume that I have to be honest here), I need the money and I’d rather write than have to go out and look for a real job. I’ve had several, most of which required getting up at a reasonable hour of the morning, keeping my boss happy and doing a lot of other such things that I’m really not very good at. Writing allows me to stay up until all hours of the night or early morning, sleep in as late as I like, and get into the office whenever I please. I also like the fact that the office is steps away from my bedroom and close to the refrigerator. I have no commute, no dress code and no boss. On top of all of that, I love to write and can’t imagine anything else that I’d rather do for a living.
When do you write?
THANE: I don’t have an absolutely fixed schedule. I like to get all the boring parts of my day out of the way first so that they aren’t hanging over my head while I’m trying to write. So I usually get up, exercise, read the papers, run any errands that need running and take care of any household chores that have to be done. By then it’s usually time for lunch, after which I can head into my study and write with a clear conscience. I usually get there around 1:00 or so and will work until around 6:00, if I’m eating dinner at home. Then I’ll go back to work for a while after dinner. My preference, though, is to work until 7:00 or 7:30, then go out for a light dinner, preferably someplace where I can have a couple of drinks and listen to some music. I’ll read for a while before I go to sleep and then start all over the next day.
Where do you write?
THANE: I live most of the year in Arizona, and when I’m there I write in my study at home. I’ve never been one of those people who could write in a coffee house or a café or some other place where there are a lot of distractions. I need the peace and quiet of a room where I can close the door, seal myself off and concentrate on the work. Unlike a lot of other authors, I can’t even listen to music when I write. I do spend three months a year on a lake in northwestern Montana. There I also have a room where I can write, but I also have a table in a gazebo in the woods overlooking the lake. I’ll often take my laptop down there and write, even though I know I’ll occasionally be distracted by the beautiful view or the occasional passing boat. This is the spot:
What do you write?
THANE: I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, but I’ve now settled into writing crime fiction almost exclusively. I’m currently doing a series set in Phoenix, Arizona, featuring a homicide detective named Sean Richardson. The first book in the series is No Place to Die, and the second, which has been out for six months now, is Until Death. I’ve just finished a stand-alone suspense novel, tentatively titled Picture Me Gone, and am now working on the third Sean Richardson book, which I hope to finish while in Montana this summer.
How do you write?
THANE: Pretty much on the fly. I start with a very vague idea and then write the story chapter by chapter with no idea where the book is going from one day to the next, at least early on. I’ve tried outlining but it simply doesn’t work for me; I have to let a story unfold at its own pace. Usually, by the time I’m about a third of the way in, I’ll suddenly realize how the book is going to end without really having consciously thought about it. Then the job at hand is to get from where I am at that point to the conclusion that’s presented itself. This may also involve a fair amount of re-writing to make what I’ve done already fit the conclusion I’ve decided upon.
Since I don’t know where the book is going, I can’t really do much research in advance, and so part of my process involves doing whatever research is necessary as I go along. Of course the downside to working this way is that occasionally a book will simply stall out and what seemed like an excellent idea winds up going nowhere. I have several efforts lying dormant on my hard drive that ran out of gas after about 15,000 words or so.
Tell me about your previous books and where they can be found.
THANE: I have a non-fiction book that is now out of print and can only be found in used bookstores and on the Internet. Occasionally a copy pops up on E-Bay with the seller asking what seems like a totally irrational price. I don’t know what these used copies actually sell for, but it does sometimes lead me to think about the fifteen or twenty pristine copies I still have in a box in my closet. Otherwise, the other two books are available in a variety of editions on Amazon and at other on-line sites. I know that copies are still available at a number of bookstores, but it’s always difficult knowing which ones will have them in stock at any given moment.
Tell me what you’re currently working on.
THANE: As I suggested above, I’m currently finishing up the third Sean Richardson novel which I’m calling Fatal Blow. It begins when a woman accidentally discovers evidence of her husband’s infidelity. Shortly thereafter, he reports her missing, and a few days later a female torso is discovered floating lazily down a Phoenix canal. When it’s identified as the missing woman, Richardson and his partner, Maggie McClinton, have to figure out who’s responsible for beheading the woman and pitching her into the canal. As is usual in a book like this, complications ensue.
Tell me something funny.
THANE: A couple of nights ago, I went to see Megan Abbot and Jeff Abbot, who are not related but who are touring together in support of their new books. It was a great event and later Harlan Coben was teasing Megan on Twitter about touring with Jeff. She responded as only Megan would by saying, “But first rule of book tour: Bring your own bail money,” which stuck me not only as very funny but also as excellent advice for any writer going on tour.
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On M. Ruth Myers’ website, the author claims her books have “strong women–small guns–smart dialogue.” And Don’t Dare a Dame, the third book in the Maggie Sullivan detective series, makes good on those claims. And then some.
Set during the Depression Era in Dayton, Ohio, Don’t Dare a Dame starts off in classic P.I. form with Maggie Sullivan taking a seemingly dead-end case. The Vanhorn Sisters, two sweet spinsters, one of them blind, hire Maggie to look into the disappearance of their father, who vanished some quarter of century ago during the Great Flood of 1913. The investigation immediately turns deadly when the Vanhorn’s stepfather–and Maggie’s chief suspect–commits suicide, and then she gets hauled before the Chief of Police for asking too many questions. From there, the pot really begins to boil as Maggie discovers that the Vanhorn sisters’ suspicions are justified: their father was, indeed, murdered; the only question is: who is the killer? But before Maggie can identify the killer and bring justice to the Vanhorn’s, her P.I. license, her livelihood, and her life will be put at risk.
Myers definitely makes good on the “strong women” in this novel, especially the protagonist Maggie Sullivan. Tough and pretty with a smart mouth and a strong moral compass, Sullivan is a “dame” a reader can root for. This is the passage in chapter one that really sold me on this character when Sullivan takes a bully down:
I hated to persuade him, but Neal seemed like one of those guys who needed taking down a peg or two. I gave him a quick little kitten jab in the snoot. Not enough to break it, just enough to start blood gushing down to his chin and get his attention. . .’Don’t drip on the rug on your way out,’ I said.
Now that’s my kind of detective, but if you remain unconvinced of her toughness, here’s a great exchange between Sullivan and one of her operatives after she’s caught a beating herself:
“Holy smokes, Sis! Someone roughed you up bad.”
“Yeah, but I shot him,” I said to allay his dismay. ..
“Was it Cy Warren’s mugs did it?”
“Nah,” I lied. “Some girls have a fan club. The one they started for me is people lining up to break my nose.”
But it’s not only Sullivan’s toughness and sharp tongue that make this an enjoyable read. It’s also the setting. The descriptions of the area, the secondary characters and how they act, speak, and think, and the police procedural aspects of the novel: all of these elements are authentic and highly readable. And when you add those elements with a formidable lead character and a page-turning plot, it all adds up to a great mystery.
Maggie Sullivan is in the running for my favorite new P.I. series, and I’ve already downloaded Tough Cookie to my Kindle. Don’t Dare a Dame, which was recently named a finalist for the Shamus Award for Best Indie P.I. novel,has everything working for it. Go buy it. You will not be sorry.
I love the voice in this novel, which is an addictive cross between Chuck Palahniuk and Mikey Spillane with a bit of spy-fi a la Ian Fleming thrown in for good measure. What this book does (and does well) is follow the classic structure of a detective/spy novel, plot twists and tough guy dialogue included, while simultaneously poking fun at those storied genres. There are insider jokes/familiar troupes on practically every page, and the author’s influences literally pop up and say, “Hello.” Usually, a writer will deliver jokes deadpan and only acknowledge his/her influences via author interview, but Allen calls attention to his in the actual narrative, which makes the book all the more comical and enjoyable. Too, this level of self-commentary adds a layer of depth to the narrative, making THE SPARTAK TRIGGER both a novel and, in its own way, criticism. . .and entertaining criticism at that.
But all English major stuff aside, this book does the most important thing a novel should do: it makes you want to turn pages; it draws you into its world and makes you want to stay there. Bottom line, that is my most fundamental requirement for fiction, and based on that, I highly recommend reading this one.
Why do you write?
MARKS: I write so I can kill people…on the page that I can’t kill in real life……….. Seriously, why do I write – why does anyone write – because we have to.
When do you write?
MARKS: I keep “vampire hours,” so mostly I write in the middle of the night. My sleep schedule has shifted over time. I’ve always been a late-night person. But that used to mean going to bed at 2 or 3 or 4am. Now it means going to bed at 9am and getting up at three or four in the afternoon. So I tend to write starting at about 11pm these days. It’s quiet. There’s no interruptions. And the nighttime sets the proper mood for most of what I write.
Where do you write?
MARKS: I write in my home office. Sometimes I do it other places. But my office has everything I need. I have a nice view. Pictures on the wall that inspire me. Mostly album covers and movie lobby cards, some other things. And, of course, my picture of Dennis Hopper flipping the bird from Easy Rider. I also have access to my addictions, diet cherry Pepsi and Waiwera water. Plus I have my assistants, my dogs and cats, to help out.
If I’m out and about in the world, coffee shop, beach, library, I get too distracted by what’s going on around me…but that can be fun. Too much fun. And you might think there would be distractions in the office, TV, phone and food. But I’m pretty good at avoiding those. What I’m not good at avoiding is the internet. I love to research and it makes me feel like I’m working even when I’m not.
What do you write?
MARKS: I write mostly noir and mystery fiction, but sometimes mainstream and humor or satire. For example, my Shamus Award-Winning novel, White Heat, is a noir-mystery-thriller set in and during the “Rodney King” riots (see below for more details) and its sequel, Broken Windows (not yet published) is in the same vein. I’ve had over 30 short stories published that run the gamut from noir to mainstream and satire, including several award winners.
How do you write?
MARKS: I put my ass in the chair, goof for a few minutes on the computer, doing whatever I want, and then I start in on one of my projects. Doesn’t matter if I’m not in the mood – you get in the mood by doing it. And even if it’s not going well, just write, stream-of-consciousness. Hone it later.
Tell me about your previous books and where they can be found.
MARKS: White Heat and L.A. Late @ Night, a collection of five of my previously published short stories, can be found on Amazon in both paperback and e-versions, as well as other venues. White Heat is my Shamus Award winning novel that Publishers Weekly calls a “taut crime yarn.” It’s set during the “Rodney King Riots” of 1992 and is about a screwup P.I. who inadvertently leads a murderer to his prey and has to find the killer in order to make things right. L.A. Late @ Night is a collection of 5 of my previously published short stories. All set in L.A. and in genres ranging from noir to hardboiled to medium boiled. Lawrence Maddox, the reviewer in All Due Respect, Crime Fiction Magazine said this about that collection: “You could hate L.A. for the way it screws with the decent folk so deftly conveyed here, but you won’t be able to put this highly recommended collection down.”
Tell me what you’re currently working on.
MARKS: I’m working on a slew of projects. The sequel to White Heat and another novel, this one a mystery set on the World War II homefront, are already done and sitting with an agent. So I’m currently working on two stand-alone novellas. One for a publisher of novellas and one for myself. Both are mysteries, but one is more noir than the other. But the other is interesting because it’s set all in one location. But if I told you exactly what they were about, well, you know… I’m also working on three different short stories, plus the blog I write for every other Friday (http://7criminalminds.blogspot.com/). And I’m co-editing an anthology of mystery short stories from various writers called Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea (that may or may not remain the final title), that includes several big name and award-winning mystery authors. I’m definitely not wanting for things to occupy my time.
Tell me something funny.
MARKS: I write so I can kill people on the page that I can’t kill in real life……….. You gotta admit, that’s pretty funny….
Thanks for having me, Max!
Find Paul D. Marks at:
Paul D. Marks’ novel WHITE HEAT is a 2013 SHAMUS AWARD WINNER. Publishers Weekly calls WHITE HEAT a “taut crime yarn.” And Midwest Book Review says “WHITE HEAT is a riveting read of mystery, much recommended.” Paul is also the author of over thirty published short stories in a variety of genres, including several award winners – and L.A. LATE @ NIGHT, a collection of five of his mystery and noir tales. His story HOWLING AT THE MOON will be in an upcoming edition of Ellery Queen. And he has the distinction, dubious though it might be, of being the last person to have shot a film on the fabled MGM backlot before it bit the dust to make way for condos. According to Steven Bingen, one of the authors of the recent, well-received book MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot: “That 40 page chronological list I mentioned of films shot at the studio ends with his [Paul D. Marks’] name on it.”
In my mind, this novel can be broken down into two parts, and both of them are satisfying, but for different reasons. Part One is about Jimmy Veeder, a good guy drifter with a sense of humor, who returns to the Imperial Valley in California to visit his dying father, Big Jack Veeder. The highlights of this section are Shaw’s descriptions of Imperial Valley and Mexico, which is right on the border nearby. Here is one of my favorite sections from the beginning of chapter six:
All the fun stuff is in Mexico. . . Hell, you can buy Cuban cigars. You can go to a bullfight, a dog fight, or a cock fight if that’s your pleasure. What is fun and illegal in the U.S., Mexico gladly offers in a semi-legal, slightly dangerous way. If the law looks the other way, then is it really illegal?
In this passage, Shaw comically sums up the moral and legal ambiguity of Mexico and what role America and Americans play in that ambiguity; pretty much throughout Part One, he manages to skillfully provide commentary on the complex relationship between the two countries, but without being preachy, long-winded, and, most importantly, without sacrificing the narrative thread. Another aspect of Part One I enjoyed was the relationships between Jimmy (the son) and Jack (the father). Even in a crime novel, death bed scenes, especially death bed scenes between parent and child, could very easily come across as trite or just plain boring to read. But these aren’t. Big Jack, a veteran and a farmer, is kind of the strong-silent type, but he has a wonderful sense of humor, especially about death. Here’s Big Jack on death, from chapter three:
Dying is a bitch when you don’t believe in God. But I ain’t going to start now just because I’m scared. I’m afraid, and the only way I know how to kill fear is distraction. I want to die happy. I want to die laughing. . .Let’s not let this get dark and sad and morose. Leave the crying to the women.
Throughout Part One, there are funny exchanges like this between Jimmy and Jack, the best of which happens when Jack asks his son to find him a prostitute, which, in a way, serves as the transition from Part One to Part Two.
Part Two of the novel is the crime element of this particular crime novel, and this is when the narrative really picks up speed. Jimmy and his friend Bobby head into Mexico to locate Yolanda, a prostitute that Big Jack has a mysterious relationship with. I never like to talk specifics about plot, but I can say this journey into Mexico brings death, kidnapping, and gangsters into the mix, which is always fun. I especially enjoy the character Tomas Morales, a stone-cold businessman who Jimmy used to look after when Tomas was a little kid. Morales is into all manner of illegal activity, but he assists Jimmy in finding Yolanda. In this section of the novel, the reader really gets to know Jimmy, and the misadventures he gets into with Bobby are great fun. As is their dialogue. Here’s Bobby’s response when Jimmy asks him to go to Mexico and help Jimmy locate a hooker for Big Jack:
Your dad is fucking awesome. I am so in on this. Beats the shit out of bringing flowers. Jack wants a piece, let’s tear him off some chonch.
That made me laugh. I also enjoyed the relationship Jimmy has with Angie, his ex-girlfriend who works at Big Jack’s hospice center. Tough as nails and every bit as funny as Bobby, Angie keeps Jimmy, a slacker by nature, focused and centered, and it is always fun to read.
Bottom line, this is an excellent book with a funny yet flawed main character and a fascinating setting. The Mexico/US border is always fertile ground for great stories, and Johnny Shaw has certainly added a great new one. I’ve already downloaded PLASTER CITY, which is another book in the Jimmy Veeder series. I give DOVE SEASON my highest recommendation.