One Bite at a Time




Monday, August 11, 2014

Blog Hop

Last week, John McFetridge tagged me as one of his two authors to participate in a blog hop. Here’s how it works: each participating author tags two other authors until the Internet crashes and writers can get back to writing, as they will have lost all venues for whining about Amazon-Hachette, why they can’t make any money, or why writing is the most difficult occupation in the history of man, and getting harder by the day.

Info on the authors I tagged can be found below my answers. Thanks to John for thinking of me.

What am I working on?
Right now, nothing. (Ha!) Over the weekend I finished polishing and formatting a Nick Forte PI novel that had been sitting on my hard drive for several years, ready to send to the agent or self-publish. After Labor Day I’ll get to work on the edits for the fourth Penns River novel, which has been left to ferment over the summer. For the remainder of August I’m reading and watching a lot of baseball.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It’s written by me. Remember, I’m unique, just like everybody else.

The Penns River novels are police procedurals, so they owe a great debt to Ed McBain. Where I think they are different from most is the setting: a small, economically depressed town. What I guess would be called an exurban setting; where the suburbs change into rural areas, with a small, decaying downtown. This gives me the opportunity to write a little urban, a little rural, and whatever other kind of setting and crime I care to indulge.

The Nick Forte PI novels are pretty traditional, with, I hope, an interesting twist. He’s a divorced father with a daughter he adores. He and Caroline have a couple of scenes in each book that serve to ground Forte, and to, hopefully, humanize him for the reader as his character becomes darker from book to book. I’ll start the fifth Forte book over the winter, and the violence he’s faced—and committed—will have worn him down to the point he’s clinging to Caroline as his life preserver, which even he recognizes it’s too great a burden for a twelve-year-old girl. As she grows, he also becomes more aware, and involved in, family and women’s issues cases.

Why do I write what I do?
These are the kinds of stories I like to read, and feel most comfortable telling. Especially now, that I have established this universe—Forte and the main character in the Penns River books are cousins, and there is some cross-pollination, especially in Grind Joint—I tend to come up with ideas that fit into one or the other’s established world. I have an idea for them to cross over again sometime in the future.

How does my writing process work?
I’m a little OCD. (The Beloved Spouse just gave me That Look.) Okay, I’m a lot OCD. Not like I’m a Matchstick Man, or anything.

When drafting, I have to write one single-spaced page a day on workdays, two on days off. I read and clean up the previous day’s work before moving on, and read each chapter to The Beloved Spouse as it is finished. Then I leave the book alone for a few months before reading it start to finish and taking notes. Then comes what are usually two drafts: one to make sure the series of chapters make a unified novel (adding or removing chapters, subplots, or characters), and another to make them good. (Tightening everything, adjusting for flow, making sure each character has his or her own voice, etc.). Then it sits for another month or so before I do a word frequency search and remove some of the worst offenders. After that comes the final polish, which has a routine of its own:
Day One: Read Chapters 1 & 2. Just read them. Nothing else.
Day Two: Read Chapters 1 & 2 sotto voce from the screen and edit. Read Chapters 3 & 4.
Day Three: Print, read aloud, and edit from the hard copy Chapters 1 & 2; when this pass is finished, they’re done. Period. Read Chapters 3 & 4 sotto voce from the screen and edit. Read Chapters 5 & 6.
Day Four etc.: Repeat until finished. Weekends get an extra chapter a day.

When this process is complete, I’m allowed to type THE END at the bottom, and I’ll mean it, unless the agent or an editor wants some specific changes.

Now it’s my turn to tag two authors, both of whom are favorites of mine.

Charlie Stella is the Godfather of mob fiction today. He has a gift of showing life from the underside of organized crime. Not necessarily the bosses, but what it’s like in the trenches. His dialog and situations feel as true as anything written by George V. Higgins. You can read Charlie’s answers next week on his excellent and frequently updated blog, Temporary Knucksline.


Jack Getze is the author of the Austin Carr series of “Big” novels. (Big Numbers, Big Money, and the soon to be released Big Mojo.) As a Famous Author, he may not have time to answer on his blog, The Crimes of Austin Carr, but Austin is pretty reliable, regardless of how people think of him in the books, and he’ll post something if Jack is busy.

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