Sunday, October 30, 2011

As October Circles the Drain…

October is always a tough writing month. I’ve been a seamhead a lot longer than I’ve been a writer, so the baseball playoffs always vie for my attention, even when they’re not compelling. This year’s playoffs were as intense and exciting as any in memory (38 of a possible 41 games were played, 13 of which were decided by one run); a lot of time was spent watching baseball.

This October had other complicating factors. One too many basement floods led to to cancellation of my trip to Bouchercon to have a water management system installed in our basement. This required everything except for furniture too large to be moved to be taken upstairs to the main floor, the bedroom floor, the attic, and even into the back yard, covered with tarps.  There are only two places in my house where I can open my eyes and not see something out of place: in my office, seated at the desk, where patio storage area is beneath my line of sight; and in the bathroom, with the doors closed. Everyplace else reminds me of work still to be done. Even my office, my usual refuge for clearing my head, has stuff jammed into it.

The waterproofing is complete, and the contractors who are fixing the damage done by the waterproofers is almost done. Next weekend we can paint, the following weekend we can lay tile over the new concrete, and then, finally we can start putting things away. The house has been torn up since mid-September; we’ll be back to normal sometime after Thanksgiving.

Two weeks ago I spent a week in California at a business conference. I got to see some friends I don’t often see anymore, and the schedule was not taxing. I did catch a cold while I was there, and, or course, no writing got done. (I did polish a story for Patti Abbott’s writing challenge.)

This week I became complicit in my own demise by accidentally sticking my thumb in my eye, causing a corneal abrasion. (The Beloved Spouse described it as a rug burn on my eyeball.) It’s about healed now, but provided yet another excuse not to do much.

I tried to write through everything at first; several pages of shit were produced before I acknowledged I was terminally distracted and would be not only a happier person but a lot easier to live with if I just took a break and waited for something resembling normal life to resume. There was a time when this would have driven me crazy. Not anymore. I did what I could, and saw no reason to waste even more time undoing much of what I’d done during this period of disorder.

That’s why I haven’t been posting much, or writing much, or commenting on blogs much. Much of what I’ve read in the blogosphere has interested me little—that’s a different post—so I’ve not been as provoked as usual. Count your blessings. It won’t last forever.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Best Part

People who hope to make money from their writing shouldn’t take publishing advice from this blog. I’m happy to share my experiences and thoughts in the hope others can learn from my mistakes, but I’m not here for the money. I had my crisis of faith about that a year or so ago, and crossed the Rubicon into self-publishing e-books just to see what it’s like. Money doesn’t enter into it anymore.

The best news about this attitude is, what I had thought would be the best part has been the best part. Wild Bill has sold thirty copies the last time I checked. At $2.09 per copy, I can take the Beloved Spouse to Longhorn for a steak with the proceeds. Big deal. The good news is that people I never heard of have bought the book, and two of them have posted glowing (and unsolicited) reviews on Amazon. (The other Amazon review is from an old friend, and his support is also much appreciated.)

The best news is that people I cared about liking the book have liked it. I’m not talking about specific names; writers whose work and opinions I respect. Was I flattering myself to think of writers who had success—and, more importantly, who I considered to be my betters as writers—as peers?

Maybe not too much.

Charlie Stella—The Godfather of Organized Crime Fiction—was first. His glowing review and subsequent interview meant more to me than a publisher’s advance. I knew Charlie would be a tough sell; he knows a little of the ins and out of the kinds of people Wild Bill revolves around. For him to like it as much as he did was sufficient to consider the venture enough of a success to bear repeating.

Tim Hallinan’s endorsement a couple of weeks ago, along with its attending interview and comments from his readers, was my idea of a big splash book tour. Tim’s questions required substantial thought on my part (as did Charlie’s), and the comments from his readers were unexpectedly enthusiastic. Sales spiked after both events, and I am grateful to both Charlie and Tim for their encouragement and support.

This doesn’t mean I’m not hoping to sell a few more copies. It also doesn’t mean I’d not consider a publishing contract. What it does mean is anyone who might want to publish me needs to bring life-altering sums of money with them. I have thoroughly enjoyed the process, and the rewards have been more than adequate by my standards, based on the Reward to Bullshit Curve.  I’m not going to give that up for a few thousand dollars and untold demands on my time and limitations on what I feel like writing.

I’ll release another e-book sometime over the winter, trying a few different things on the promotional aspects. It will sell or it won’t. If it receives anything like the attention Wild Bill has seen so far, it will be a rousing success.

(By the way, both Charlie and Tim will have new books available in 2012. Be ready.)

Monday, October 17, 2011


Patti Abbott has another flash fiction challenge over at her blog. This time the task was Write a story in any genre of under 1000 words based on one of Reginald Marsh's paintings. My contribution is below.


Stinky wondered what kept the tugboat from sinking. Tires and life preservers and ropes and all kinds of shit hung off the side. Taller than it was wide, looked like it might capsize every time a wave big enough to be seen hit anywhere but dead on. A milk run tonight, the harbor smooth as glass. The only breeze in Stinky’s face came from the boat’s movement.

He’d made this trip a hundred times on the schooner Dutch sent to meet the Canucks outside the three-mile limit. Stinky came up with the idea to connect the boats with special ladders, rollers built in to slide the booze between boats. Built-up sides kept the cases from falling off. No lifting, no breakage, and the load got transferred in half the time.

Dutch didn’t pay any attention when Stinky told him. “Yeah, Stinky. Do what you need to. I know you’ll do a good job.” The job Stinky did not good enough to merit a raise. So there was some “breakage.” A thousand cases of hootch come off a boat, some get dropped. Bottles get broken. These became Stinky’s skim. Dutch knew what an acceptable breakage rate was and Stinky knew not to get greedy. He kicked a little back to the Canucks and no one the wiser. Dutch didn’t get cheated, and Stinky and the Canucks got a little extra taste.

A door opened behind Stinky. Light poured onto the bow. Noodles said, “He’s out here, Mr. Flegenheimer.” The door closed and it was dark again.

Dutch walked to stand where Stinky could see him. “Never trust a Dago.”

“You saying me, Dutch? Aronoff sound Italian to you?”

“It ain’t you I’m talking about, Stinky. It’s you I’m talking to. Never trust a Dago. Don’t matter if he’s from Jersey or Canada or right off the goddamn boat from Sicily. I told you not to trust them.”

“You know I don’t deal with them unless I have to.”

“You dealt with them enough.” Dutch leaned on the rail, looked back to the skyline. Light twinkled in the Chrysler Building. “Charlie Lucky’s the worst of the bunch. He’s the one done for you.”

“I met him one time in my life, and it was you took me to see him that time.”

Dutch shook his head. “The guy on the boat. With all those scars on his face from smallpox or acne or something. Nunzio? He’s Charlie’s asshole buddy. Reports back to him of someone even spits over the side. I know about how you’re offloading the booze, and how much you’re skimming. That was clever, those rollers. Stupid thinking you could fool me about it. Why didn’t you just tell me? I’d a give you a raise.”

“You give me a piece of the action?” Stinky waited a few seconds for a reply. “I didn’t think so. You pay like we’re punching a clock. What do I get for a good idea? A twenty buck raise?”

“I paid how I pay when you come on. You was happy for the guarantee. You got no beef coming.”

“It’s been five years and I’m still making a lousy three hundred a week. What are you paying Berman? Ten grand, I hear.”

“Berman’s a genius, you stupid son of a bitch! You got any idea how much he makes for me every week, rigging the numbers in Harlem? You know how many guys there are in the world can do that?” Dutch held up an index finger. “Him. You had one good idea in your life and you kept it to yourself. Look where it got you. Dumb bastard.”

Dutch called for Noodles and Hump and Lulu. Kicked the buckets that held Stinky’s feet. “That’s set about enough. I was going to do you a favor and put your out of your misery before the boys dumped you over the side like the trash you are. Now you can kiss my ass. Give my regards to Legs and Julie when you see them.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Interview at The Blog Cabin

In addition to being a kick-ass writer, Timothy Hallinan is a true humanitarian and gentleman scholar, as can be seen in his erudite and probing interview of Yours Truly at Tim’s blog, The Blog Cabin.

Many thanks to Tim for his support and for questions that made me think about some things I hadn’t even thought about when I was writing Wild Bill.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blatant (Not) Self-Promotion

Timothy Hallinan is the author of three series of thrillers. His Simeon Grist novels led to the current, highly successful Poke Rafferty stories, which take place in Thailand. To fill the idle hours when he’s not writing a Rafferty book or traveling from California to Bangkok, he has also begun a series of e-books featuring professional burglar and ersatz PI to the underworld Junior Bender. His most recent Rafferty thriller, The Queen of Patpong, was nominated for both Edgar and Macavity Awards.

Mr. Hallinan has read Wild Bill, and was willing to share his thoughts for attribution:

Dana King's WILD BILL is a thriller that derives its thrills from the complex interactions of a group of fully-realized characters on both sides of the law -- although the boundary between one side and the other isn't always clear.  Set into motion by the death of a Chicago crime boss, the story introduces us to a gallery of gangsters -- the best and most persuasive I've read in years -- and the frustrated, complicated, often despairing people who pursue them, both for the Feds and for the city of Chicago.  King pulls together a large and varied cast, an extraordinary sense of place, and the ancient dynamic between good, evil, and the shades of gray in-between, and weaves it all into a juggernaut of a book that (literally) kept me up till all hours.  I loved it.

Much appreciated, sir. Thank you.