Thursday, July 29, 2021

From the Vault: A Problem and Its Likely Solution

 This week’s post was originally posted May 29, 2019. It’s as true to today as it was then, though perceptions may have changed since. It prompted a pretty good comment thread. Feel free to check it out, and continue the discussion here.

 

 

Readers may think this post is a whine. I hope writers will not, most of you having had this conversation with yourself a time or two and understanding why it needs to happen, though maybe not as publicly as this.

 

Why don’t my books sell better?

 

The reviews are good, given their limited numbers. (Sincere thanks to all of you who have reviewed any of my books, regardless of your opinion. I appreciate you taking the time.) People approach me with unsolicited praise at conferences, so I feel secure that the books hold up. I take my craft seriously and folks seem to appreciate that.

 

More than one agent has said that I might have had a nice career as a mid-list author thirty years ago. Part of that compliment—and I do consider it as such—is because thirty years ago there was the possibility of making a living as a mid-list writer. If I’m being honest with myself—which the situation demands—I have to admit part of that is because I write the kinds of books that were popular thirty years ago, before serial killers and sociopathic spouses and constantly raised stakes took over the business.

 

I’m not complaining, just observing. The market is what it is and it always will be. I posted last week about bestsellers and I’m not here to complain about people’s tastes. I read exactly the hell what I feel like reading, too. Life is too short to worry about what books someone else thinks one should read. The question here is, “What can I do to get more people to read my books?” Or even, “Is there anything I can do?”

 

Shall I move away from the private investigator and small town procedurals into more high-octane stuff? I’ve seen friends shift gears in a similar manner and do very well. There are two things that have to be determined before answering:

 

1) Do I want to do it?

2) Do I have the ability to do it?

 

I am among a fortunate few writers who doesn’t need much—any—writing income to live a comfortable life, at least by my limited standards, as the current day job pays the bills and then some. (Update: I’m now retired six months. Cat food and Ramen noodles are not on the horizon, so this still applies.) This frees me to write whatever the hell I want, but it also removes a sense of urgency I might feel if I needed writing income. That’s okay. Frankly, I don’t do my best work under that kind of pressure; I’m a plodder.

 

I write what I do because I like it and I know I’m good at it. The fact that it doesn’t sell much is an inconvenience, not a crisis. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t rankle.

 

A few years ago I realized both my current series read like novels based on 70s crime movies. I love 70s crime movies, so to me this is not a bad thing. Of course, 70s crime movies were popular forty to fifty years ago, so having that as my wheelhouse is a distinctly limiting factor.

 

Can I tweak the series to bring them a little more in line with popular tastes without losing the things I like about them? More action? Less foul language? More linear story lines? (Update: The novel slated for 2022 release includes two of these three. Guess which two, cocksucker.) All are possibilities that may well align more closely with my gifts than the radical departures considered earlier.

 

Paraphrasing Mencken, all these questions have answers that are simple, clear, and wrong. Some would work for others but not for me because of elements missing from either my personality or talent. All I can hope for is to achieve a balance that will keep me on the right side of the Reward vs. Bullshit Curve.

 

And, as so often happens when writing, Serendipity smiles upon me. After finding the nine-year-old post I linked to in the previous sentence, I decided to read it again. I’m way more accomplished now than I was then, and I thought of myself as successful when I wrote that piece.

 

So I’ll just keep plugging away. Try a little of this and a little of that. Don’t double down on something that isn’t working without a damn good reason to do so. Benoit Lelieve over at Dead End Follies recently had a great post about the hazards of trying to make a living doing what you love. Go on over and have a read; he nails it. His timing is impeccable from my perspective, reminding me as it did that because I have a reliable source of income I never have to worry about forgetting why I write.

 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

My Greatest Day of Parenting

 Lots of people advocate various books on parenting. That’s fine. Do what you do. I learned everything I needed to know about raising a child from reading Calvin and Hobbes.

 

One that sticks in my mind is a strip where Calvin asks his dad (my spirit animal) why old family pictures are black-and-white. My Spirit Animal goes on to explain how those photographs are in color. It’s the world that was black-and-white. MSA explains how color evolved in the 1930s, though it was spotty and grainy at first. When Calvin asks how paintings from hundreds of years ago can be in color, MSA tells him they were always in color. We just couldn’t see it until the 30s.

 

As a divorced father, I lacked many of the opportunities MSA had for influencing Calvin, so I had to cluster them when possible. One weekend, The Sole Heir was messing with her malfunctioning iPad ear buds. She did a little online research and learned the issue was probably with the magnets and that any local Apple Store would swap them out.

 

She turned to me as we left for the excursion to ask, “Why do ear buds have magnets?”

 

“To keep them in your ears.”

 

That brought her up short. Old enough to know I wasn’t always trustworthy on such matters, not sufficiently mature to reliably recognize when. “I thought magnets only held metal together.”

 

“You never heard of bone magnets? They keep the earbud close enough to the little bones in your ear so you can hear, but no so close it clogs up your ear canal. That’s probably what’s wrong. These are either too strong or too weak.”

 

That prompted a look I came to know and love: she knew I was full of crap, but lacked the ammunition on hand to call me on it and win the argument.

 

We were watching baseball that same evening when the standard disclaimer came on: “Any rebroadcast, reproduction, or other use of the pictures and accounts of this game without the express written consent of the office of the Commissioner of Baseball is prohibited.”

 

She should have known better after the morning’s earbud episode, but the idealism of youth was strong in this one. “Hey, Dad. What does the Commissioner of Baseball do?”

 

“He signs all the baseballs.”

 

A moment’s thought. “That’s all?”

 

“Watch the game. See how many balls they go through. Multiply that by fifteen games a day. Signing balls is a full-time job.”

 

I got That Look twice in one day. Maybe the proudest I ever felt as a parent, including at her wedding.

 

 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Fan Letters

 

I have kidded myself in the past, making comments along the line of how my fan club meets in airplane lavatories. While not a lot of people read my books, those who do are remarkably loyal. For that I am genuinely grateful. Thank you all.

 

As you might expect, I don’t get a lot of fan mail. It’s not disappointing; I don’t expect much. I have received a couple of messages in the past few weeks that have made me realize I don’t write only for myself. There are people out there who look forward to my next book. One has been so loyal I named a character after her.

 

I received an e-mail the other day from a reader I have corresponded with in the past. He wrote to tell me the virus gave him a rough year, both health-wise and on the employment front. He went on to say how much he appreciated Leaving the Scene for giving him a break from all the bad that’s been going on around him. Followed that up with detailed comments on the book that made it clear he’d read it.

 

I tried, but couldn’t begin to tell him how gratifying his message was, so I’ll try again here. (And will fail again.) The writers among you know what a lonely and frustrating thing writing can be. (Not always, but enough of the time.) I spend a lot of time on craft, trying to have a unique voice, but not something that gets in the way of the readers’ ability to move quickly through the book. I don’t make any money to speak of, and I’m okay with that.

 

What makes it possible for me to be okay with that is the knowledge that my cadre of loyal readers looks forward to what I create for them. No one is going to confuse me with Dennis Lehane or Michael Connelly or James Ellroy in either artistry or sales; that’s fine, too. It’s enough to know there are people to whom I can bring a little entertainment that might help them through the day.

 

So consider this a heartfelt thank you to all of you who read my books or this blog. Your support is appreciated, and I’m grateful, and lucky, to have you.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

An Interview With Beau Johnson, Author of Brand New Dark

 Beau Johnson is a treat. Outstanding author (most notably of the Bishop Rider short stories), tireless promoter of the work of other, connoisseur of all things cheesy, and a hell of a nice guy. I look forward to Beau’s annual collection not only for the stories, but as na excuse to get him back on the blog.

This year’s entry is Brand New Dark, which drops July 12 from Down & Out Books. (I should also note that Beau has all the best titles: A Better Kind of Hate, The Big Machine Eats, and All of Them to Burn.

OBAAT: Looking back at our previous interviews, I see we’ve been getting together more or less annually since 2017. In that first interview we talked a little about your process, how you’re a pantser but will revise each story ten to fifteen times before setting it aside for a few weeks. Has your process evolved as you become more comfortable in the knowledge “I can do this?” Maybe the first question should be to ask if you have become more comfortable.

BJ:  I guess, yes, this would be our fourth go around, Dana.  As ever, thank you for having me! Always


cool of you to give me time and space. As for more comfortable, I can say yes to some of it and no to other parts. I HAVE settled on twelve revisions as to the number any one piece goes through, however.

 OBAAT: I have to ask: Is Bishop Rider still a prominent force in this collection?

BJ: THE prominent force if I'm honest.  Brand New Dark being my first attempt at a book exclusive to a single character.  Will it be too much?  Bishop's world? His struggle?  Time will tell for sure and yes, these are the things I think about.

 OBAAT: Looking back, I’m shocked—shocked!—to see I never asked you about who has most influenced your writing. So, who have been the greatest influences on your writing?

BJ: Even though I found crime fiction over a decade ago my first love will always be King. Misery being the first book I ever read by the man.  I've been hooked ever since.  But back to crime fiction, I would say I dig quite a few writers out there producing today.  Matthew C. Funk is one.  Shawn Cosby for another.  I would add Nikki Dolson, James D.F. Hannah, Nick Kolakowski, Angel Luis Colon, Laurel Hightower, Jennifer Hillier, Laird Barron, Tom Leins, and just too many others that I will probably kick myself for forgetting once you've gone and posted this.

 OBAAT: What are you working on now, and what can we expect next?


BJ
: Well, I never want to jinx things, but if I'm lucky, I might have one more Rider book in me. It would take his story close to one hundred in total and I've always felt like that was a nice round number to end on.  We shall see, of course.  As ever, I guarantee nothing.

 OBAAT: What is the cheese you’ve eaten most recently (or are eating now), and why was it chosen?

BJ: Ha!  We do love cheese, don't we?  Right now just some plain old Old, purchased by my wife because she kicks all the ass. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Spring's Favorite Reads

 

I’m out of the business of talking about which books are “best.” There is too much personal taste involved, and the comparison isn’t even apples to oranges. Depending on the books, it could be steak to pork chops or even eastern North Carolina barbecue versus western North Carolina barbecue. (Didn’t know there was a difference? Heathen.) With that in mind, what follows are the books I enjoyed reading the most in the three months just ended.

 

Dodge City, Tom Clavin. Rolls the history of Dodge City as a cow town into biographies of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, with several entertaining digressions. This was a re-read for me, and well worth the time. Clavin has an engaging style, and the stories are fascinating, even more so because they’re true. If you have an interest in this period and these men, you’ll enjoy this.

 

Under the Bright Lights, Daniel Woodrell. The first book of the Bayou Trilogy and more of a straight-up crime story than his later works. All of the elements that made Woodrell Woodrell are here, though in a less fully developed form than you’ll see in Winter’s Bone. Few writers are as evocative and economical at the same time.

 

Blood Relatives, Ed McBain. An 87th Precinct novel from the 70s. I’ve written so much about McBain it’s hard to find something new, but it’s often overlooked how well he shows the changes in society over time without aging his characters at the sane rate. Steve Carella probably hasn’t aged five years in the twenty years between this book and Cop Hater, yet technology and society are contemporary to the year in which the story takes place and it’s never jarring.

 

Among the Shadows, Bruce Robert Coffin. First book of the John Byron series. Tightly plotted procedural with lots of inside stuff on investigations and how police departments run them. Or don’t, sometimes. Outstanding characters are well defined and delineated, with a dry wit that suits each cop, which makes sense: Coffin is a retired cop and knows this stuff cold. Lucky us, he has the writing chops to be able to tell the story in such an entertaining and enlightening manner. I’ll be back for the rest of the series.

 

The Ways of the Dead, Neely Tucker. Book 1 of the Sully Carter series. A journalist himself, Tucker knows his way around a newsroom as well as one would expect. What sets him apart is an ability to tell things straight without grinding any axes. Based on a true story that is at least as engrossing as any fictional account, Tucker adds a few ornaments to make The Ways of the Dead unique. Too often plot twists are too convoluted to withstand scrutiny; the big one left me gobsmacked until I thought back and saw how everything made sense. The next book in the series is already queued up to be read.

 

Every City is Every Other City, John McFetridge. His first book in quite a while, and worth the wait. Low-key humor, engaging characters, and two radically different parallel plot lines all fit together. Gordon Stewart is a film location scout/manager and part time private eye who starts out doing a favor for a friend, finds a body, and gets involved in a case way bigger than he can handle. If you’re looking for a book where you can reasonably think “This could happen” on just about every page, with plenty of opportunities for “I’m glad it’s not happening to me,” then this is the book for you.

 

Swag, Elmore Leonard. Not his best—he spends too much time having drinks with the “career ladies”—but the opening, closing, and writing are first-rate Leonard, which means at least as good as anyone else, ever.

 

Blood’s a Rover, James Ellroy. This completes my sequential re-read of the Underworld USA trilogy. There isn’t much more I can write about Ellroy and his work than I have already. Suffice to say he is the most unique writer I have encountered, and I gain something every time I read him. Next year I’ll begin his current series with Perfidia. There’s no rule that says I can only read Ellroy once a year; I do have one that says I must read him every year.

 

Trouble is My Business, Raymond Chandler. Four of Chandler’s best “long stories” (as he referred to them): “Trouble is My Business,” “Finger Man,” “Goldfish,” and “Red Wind.” I’ve soured on Chandler over the past few years. He spends a little too much time on description in his novels, sometimes reaches too hard in his efforts to be clever, and I’ve read each novel so often I know what’s coming. (It didn’t help that I read his letters a while back and learned what an asshole he was.) I almost skipped him when his turn came up in the rotation, but I reached back for these stories and was glad I did. The shorter format keeps him from rambling, and these are all pretty close to perfect.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

3:10 to Yuma

 The Beloved Spouse™ and I recently performed an experiment. In one night we

·       Watched the movie 3:10 to Yuma (original 1957 version)

·       Watched 3:10 to Yuma (2007 remake)

·       Read Elmore Leonard’s short story

 

What we discovered was interesting. (Be forewarned. Spoilers abound.)

 

First, the 2007 movie is a remake of the 1957 original, not a re-visiting of the source material as the


Coen Brothers did with True Grit. The 2007 version tracks the 1957 version closely, particularly when it came to bits in the movie that weren’t in the book. The biggest difference is in the ending, and an expanded part for Dan Evans’s son, William.

 

Differences from the book that were in both movies:

·       The main characters’ names, though the same in both movies. The lawman in the story is named Paul Scallen; the movies use Dan Evans. The prisoner in the book is Jim Kidd; in the movies he’s Ben Wade. (I wonder if this had anything to do with a screenplay Leonard later wrote for Clint Eastwood, Joe Kidd.

·       Scallen’s a marshal who’s doing his job; both versions of Dan Evans portray him as a rancher down on his luck who takes the job because he needs the money. I think the story works better. Scallen has the same doubts and fears as Evans, but he makes sure Kidd gets on the train because it’s his job. There’s a dignity to that, just as much as the rancher risking his life to save the ranch.

·       Evans’s family play a much larger role in the films. In the remake, Evans’s son even tags along to enrich the plot. The primary role of the family scenes is to humanize Wade through his interactions with the wife and children. More on Wade’s character below.

·       The original film shows Wade to be ruthless but thoughtful. He kills one of his own in cold blood in order to create a shot at the stage driver who held a gun to his man’s head, which he also does in the remake.

·       Both films add extended backstory to show why Wade is wanted; Leonard’s story begins with him already in custody.

·      


The movies differ in how they leaven Wade’s character. In the original, he and the gang stop into town to misdirect the local marshal. The gang goes off and Wade seduces the barmaid. He treats her well by “two ships passing in the night” standards.

·       The remake goes adds two elements to Wade character. He’s a pretty good artist, given to sketching birds and a picture of Evans as he stands guard. He also makes it clear to young William that he (Wade) is just as bad as any of the rest of his gang, or he couldn’t lead them.

·       That last points out the biggest difference in the films: their eras. The 1957 version is what I call a “good haircut” Western. Everyone is well groomed, and the worst of their conduct is only hinted at. (Except for shooting people. American films have never had a problem with showing that.) The remake is of the modern revisionist school, much grittier, with villains who come across as ruthless as they would likely have been in 1880s Arizona.

·       The casting and acting in both are excellent. The original cast Van Heflin as Evans and Glenn Ford as Wade. No one was better than Heflin at playing the ordinary man carrying a burden. Ford plays Wade with an understated menace that is made more effective through its lack of histrionics. The remake had Christian Bale playing Evans, outstanding and believable as always; and Russell Crowe a Wade, displaying with ease the multiple facets of the personality this screenplay gives him. Who’s better? Depends on the style of acting you prefer. I like the less declamatory style, so I side with the 2007 edition, but both are excellent. A special shoutout to Ben Foster as 2007 Wade’s Number Two, Charlie Prince. I’m a Richard Jaeckel fan, but Foster provided a level of menace and insanity that helped drive the entire picture.

So which did I prefer better? The story is cleaner and far more straightforward, but it had the advantage of brevity. The movies need to provide an evening’s entertainment. I prefer the 2007 version, due to its revisionist elements and the bits that were added in getting Wade from Bisbee to Contention to catch the train, as they brought depth and realism to the story while exploring characters in more detail. The remake has a dramatically different ending (which I’ll not spoil) that I don’t have a good explanation for. I don’t think it makes the movie any worse or better. It’s just different.

We had a lot of fun doing this. A short story as source material made the process easier (I read it aloud to TBS after the viewings), but I see potential for a few nights a year with similar double features. True Grit. The Magnificent Seven. The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.  It’s a quick and entertaining way to study variations in storytelling, which is never a bad thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

What I Learned From This "Final" Draft

 

Most authors will tell you no two books are written the same way. While there are always many similarities, process evolves as the author matures, more or less time is available, and deadlines approach. I’m a big believer that continued success at anything depends on a well-defined, well-conceived, and repeatable process, so I’m always looking for ways to refine mine.

 

Last week I finished the final draft of the seventh Penns River novel. (More on that “final draft” business later.) I’ve learned a lot.

 

Scrivener is a big help. I use little of its functionality, but its assistance with notetaking and outline maintenance is a huge timesaver.

 

An experiment from the previous book—retyping the first draft instead of editing it—works well. It’s far easier to leave your darlings along the side of the road than it is to kill them.

 

I’ve always printed out a draft and read it aloud as part of the process. My vision issues make that more of a challenge, so having Word read chapters aloud while I follow along allows me to focus on listening, which catches a lot of things I might otherwise have missed. I still “proofread” each chapter aloud for The Beloved Spouse™ as the final check.

 

If a sentence or paragraph isn’t working no matter what I try, maybe it doesn’t belong. I cut it, let Word read the surrounding text again, and see if I miss it.

 

Now that I’m retired and my schedule is much more fluid, I’ve learned I don’t need a routine to write effectively. I sit down when I have time, or when I feel like it, and I write. No need to ease into it. My subconscious is always working on the work(s) in progress; tapping into that shouldn’t require a lot of effort. I rest transparently for a bit if need be. I think watching Jonathan Mayberry grab bits of writing time at a C3 conference implanted the idea without me realizing it at the time. This also makes it a lot easier for me to have concurrent ongoing projects.

 

Last but not least, I keep my mind open for ways to improve. Three-quarters of the way through what I fully intended to be the final draft, I began a re-read of James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover. Just a few nights’ reading convinced me my narrative and descriptions were too wordy. I’m not talking about trimming things to Ellroy’s level of staccato, but dialog is my strength, so I need to get to the next bit quick as I can. In my universe, narrative’s job is to move the story, not paint beautiful sentences. Readers can’t envision exactly what I see in my head, so I only need to give them enough to paint their own pictures; everything else is superfluous. More detailed descriptions are useful to me in early drafts, but the reader has little or no use for them.

 

So it wasn’t the final draft after all. I’ll leave it sit a few weeks while I do a read-through of the Western, then take a vacation. When I get back I’ll do what I’m referring to as the Ellroy Draft, then it will be done.

 

I hope. I have lots of other stuff I want to get to.

 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Public Service Announcement: Beware Honest Thief

 

The Beloved Spouse™ and I have streamed a couple of stinkers from stars we usually enjoy. My first thought was to attribute both films’ flaws to COVID-related production issues, but it occurred to be the scripts were greenlit before things started shutting down.

 

I don’t often post just to dump on something, but this is a public service. Spoilers abound, and that’s so you don’t flush away parts of your precious lives like we did.

 

The film under discussion is Honest Thief, starring Liam Neeson. Unhinged, with Russell Crowe, is even worse.

 

The initial premise is intriguing. A robber names Tom has taken $9 million from seven banks over the past few years. He meets a woman, falls in love, and decides to turn himself in. I can buy this. First, it’s Liam Neeson. Second, I have a close friend who did something similar.

 

You’re probably thinking it’s a legal thriller. Robber goes to a lawyer, who calls the US Attorney (bank robbery is a federal crime), but things go awry in the red tape and politics of DOJ. Neeson’s the crook, Paul Giamatti’s his lawyer, and Will Patton or Bob Balaban plays the smarmy pud DOJ functionary who sends things reeling. I’d watch that.

 

Our crook doesn’t do that. He calls the FBI tip line with all the other wackos. They, of course do not take him seriously. How can he convince them? Well, he still has the money. Hasn’t spent a dime. How about if he tells them where it is? The feds finally send a couple of agents around and, lo and behold, they decide to keep the money and say it was never there. Go so far as to kill their boss when he starts checking up on them.

 

Tom’s not a complete idiot. He only gave the feds the location of three million. (The rest is in the next storage unit over.) He’s now engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the crooked feds and their dead boss’s partner, who smells something fishy.

 

One of the feds is a lot more bent than the other. He’s the one who killed the boss (played by Robert Patrick, who would have been better served by revisiting his Terminator 2: Judgment Day skills, re-fabricated himself around the bullet would, and made his finger into a pokey thing to stab the crooked fed in the eye), and tried twice to kill our robber-hero’s girlfriend.

 

His younger partner shows signs of indecision. In fact, he is so indecisive he foregoes multiple opportunities to come clean at no risk to himself, thus donning a red shirt for the entire second half of the movie. (You can’t see it, but you know it has to be there, if only because he’s too stupid to live.)

 

Did I mention Tom way) is a demolitions expert? He blows up the really bent fed’s house as a warning. Houses on either side remain undisturbed in this fashionable Boston suburb, where a quick look will show you this can’t have been this cop’s first foray into illegality, as no FBI agent could afford that house in that neighborhood. (Why doesn’t the FBI keep tabs on this shit?)

 

This review is getting as tedious as the movie, so I’ll cut to the end. Our crook-hero sets up the fed by telling him there’s a pressure bomb under his car seat after he fled the house explosion. The bomb squad finds no detonator, but the ruse held Nemesis there long enough for our crook-hero to lay out all the evidence he’d accumulated so the dead boss’s partner is there to pick up the pieces.

 

In the end, Liam Neeson will do a couple of years in a minimum-security prison near Boston so his sweetheart can visit him. Apparently the local cops don’t have a problem with people blowing up entire houses in their jurisdiction.

 

This essay barely scratches the surface of the problems with this movie. Save yourselves now.

 

You’re welcome.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

John McFetridge, Author of Every City is Every Other City

 It’s always a treat when John McFetridge stops by for a visit; if just doesn’t happen often enough. John’s a good friend and one of a small group of writers whose books I read as soon as they come out. The sole reason it’s been tso long since he was here is because he hasn’t written a book in a while, and I refuse to reward that kind of behavior in someone I enjoy reading so much, good friend or not.

 

His new book, Every City is Every Other City, is John’s first entry into the PI genre, and it’s as good, and unique, first PI book as I’ve read. We’ll talk about the book, his evidence hiatus, and what’s in store in the next few minutes. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his return as much as I have.

 

One Bite at a Time: Welcome back. It’s been too long since you were here. Of course, it’s been too long since you wrote a book. Why the hiatus?

John McFetridge: Thanks for the welcome. When I finished the 1970s Montreal trilogy I wasn’t sure what to do next. I co-edited Montreal Noir for Akashic and co-edited 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush and then I got involved with the organizing team for Bouchercon Toronto and edited the anthology, Passport to Murder.

 

OBAAT: This is your first stab at a PI novel. What made this the right time to go there?

JM: Let’s hope it’s the right time. It has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. You know that line about all novelists having one in the drawer? Well, I have a few in that drawer and the first one was a PI novel I wrote in the late 80s. But what really made this the right time for me was that I didn’t want to write about cops or professional criminals. Not as the main characters. I wanted to see the world through the eyes of someone who isn’t normally involved in the world of crime.

 

OBAAT: Gordon Stewart is the most low-key PI I’ve seen since Jim Rockford. Plus, he’s not a full-time PI. What led you to these decisions?

JM: Gord isn’t quite an amateur sleuth, he’s got a PI license and does work for a large agency when there isn’t any movie production going on in Toronto, but he is a reluctant sleuth. That’s what I was thinking about that may have led him to become what seems like low-key. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize until I finished writing this book and was looking back at my other books that I discovered a theme I keep coming back to is the reluctance of some characters to really get into the game, to really commit to it, so to speak. I don’t think of writing as therapy but I think maybe that says something about my own approach. Maybe something I should take a closer look at.

 

OBAAT: Gord’s other gig is location scout for movies and TV. Where did that combo come from?

JM: I was a location scout and I thought it could be a good fit – finding places, finding people, they both involve a lot of working independently, asking around, driving, spending time alone. Plus there are usually some interesting characters on movie sets. 

 

OBAAT: I don’t see an obvious corollary in the PI canon that seems to lead to Gord, with the possible exception of Rockford. Which authors, books, or movies influenced you? 

JM: The big influences were Robert B. Parker’s Spenser and Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski. And also a Canadian PI, Benny Cooperman created by Howard Engel. And Gregory McDonald’s Fletch. And Jim Rockford. One of the highlights of my writing life was writing an episode of a TV show that was directed by Stuart Margolin. At the table read I couldn’t help just smiling like and thinking, “I’m sitting next to Angel!” It took every ounce of strength I had not to call him Angel. Which was made easier by the fact he’s a very professional director and a warm and friendly guy, not really like Angel at all.

 

OBAAT: Who, or what, is the inspiration for Ethel, who is as a unique, and believable, a sidekick, as I’ve seen?

JM: Ethel Mack. Ethel MacGillicuddy. She says in passing that it’s not her real name and now one of my goals is to write a series and never give out her real name. There is some Lucy in her, and some Imogene Coca, and some more recent comedians. And for a few years my son took classes at Second City in Toronto so there is some of the attitudes of the instructors there. In the book I’m working on now someone commenting on her helping Gord says that she’s his Susan Silverman and Ethel says, “Please, I’m Hawk.” Gord, of course, doesn’t know who they’re talking about.

 


OBAAT
: Gord’s other job and his relationship with Ethel allow you to explore a lot of popular culture, especially movies. Was that a serendipitous side effect, or was that the plan from the start?

JM: It was the plan. It was something I knew about so I wouldn’t have to research too much. Plus it’s a way to use material from screenplays I’ve written that didn’t sell. And I figure most people who pick up a PI novel these days are pretty familiar with the genre and with the kind of pop culture that gets referenced.

 

OBAAT: What’s next on your agenda? Another Gordon Stewart?

JM: Yes. It’s called It’s Always About the Money. I hope it will be out this time next year. Having a PI novel published is a dream come true for me and I don’t want to stop now. Plus, now I hope I can come to the Shamus Awards dinner at Bouchercon.

 

 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Get to the Point

 

Raymond Chandler is responsible for my interest in writing. (Yes, it’s his fault.) I’d loved private eye stories for years, but Chandler made me think this was something I’d like to try; level of accomplishment didn’t enter into it. The early Nick Forte books owe a lot to Philip Marlowe.

 

As I age, though, I find I am not as entertained by Chandler’s work as I used to be, though my appreciation remains solid. This is probably Dashiell Hammett’s fault. Or George V. Higgins’s. Elmore Leonard. Ed McBain. I love the use of language as much as ever, probably even more. What I appreciate is getting to the point.

 

Recent readings of Chandler find my eye skipping down the page during some of the longer descriptions. True, I’ve read them all before, but there was a time when I’d linger over even a re-reading just to let the words spend more time in my head. Now I want the author to get on with it.

 

That’s not to say I no longer care about style or a well-turned phrase, only that I am no longer interested in either of those things for their own sake. They need to serve the story. It’s hard to create vivid images in as few words as possible. That’s what makes it worth doing and separates the excellent from the good, and the great from the merely excellent.

 

Which brings us to Daniel Woodrell. I read Under the Bright Lights a few weeks ago, and his ability to exercise economy in language while still provoking me to re-read sentences just for the joy or hearing them in my head again is unsurpassed. One that sticks out is from a description of a daylight shooting on a side street, after which a character “watched people pour toward Seventh Street like a fistful of BBs down a funnel.” There are others, but that one sums up the essence of Woodrell’s craft as well as any. (His art is a topic for another day.)

 

I read Winter’s Bone several years ago and still remember his description of people who worked from “can till can’t” and a father who doctors “didn’t think would live the night until he did.” His humor is also dry, and funny, while still remaining on point. I never feel as though he cuts anything short. It’s exactly enough for his style and purpose.

 

The best art is often that which does the least to draw attention to itself. It does not demand appreciation; it makes itself available to be appreciated. Much of the beauty lies in a willingness to remain unnoticed, or at least under-noticed. Woodrell’s not unknown; neither does he attract the attention of others I could name but will not so as not to seem as if I am denigrating their work. I suspect that’s all right with him. It is with me.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

It's a Book Release Double Header!

 It’s not often that writers, even at my level of the food chain, get to celebrate two releases in the same week. Yet here I am, with two new books out in the past week.

 

One is a collaboration. I have a story in the anthology, The Eviction of Hope, edited by Colin Conway. This is as unique a concept as any anthology I’ve been part of, or heard of. I can’t do a better, or more concise, description than Colin did, so here’s his idea of the book’s concept:

 

More than a century ago, developer Elijah Hope constructed a state-of-the-art hotel. As the generations passed and tastes changed, The Hope spent two decades as an underutilized office building before conversion into a low-income housing project.

 

Rundown by years of human occupation, The Hope has become a hollow shell of its once great self. It is home to drug addicts, petty criminals, and those hiding from others. The city has long turned a blind eye to The Hope as surrounding neighborhoods gentrified and pushed their disaffected in its direction.

 

But now The Hope is preparing a return to its original glory. The current owners plan to convert it into a boutique hotel. The only thing standing in their way is the eviction of over one hundred units.

 

Each resident knew this fateful day was coming, yet most chose to believe it would never arrive. They ignored the posted signs, the hand-delivered warnings, and even the actual notices.

 

Many stayed until the bitter end.

 

These are their stories.

 

I’m delighted with how my story came out, and proud to have been asked to contribute. It’s an excellent line-up of authors who all brought their A games. Get your copy here.

 

On the personal front, Leaving the Scene is the sixth Penns River novel, available from Down & Out Books. As I deferred to Colin for the inside scoop on The Eviction of Hope, I’m probably the best person to describe Leaving the Scene.

 

 The more things change, the more they stay the same in Penns River. Stush Napierkowski has retired, replaced by retired Boston PD captain Brendan Sullivan. Nancy Snyder was promoted to deputy chief over several more experienced candidates. New officers join the department.

 

Crime pays no attention. A woman dies in a hit-and-run the night before Sullivan officially takes over. Patty Polcyn was seen by plenty of people while in the company of a man no one recognized, who may—or may not—drive a car consistent with tire marks left at the scene. The investigation demands an intensive search that requires manpower Penns River doesn’t have and loses steam as the day-to-day concerns of police work require immediate attention: domestic disputes, petty theft, not so petty theft, armed robbery, a visit from the Dixie mafia to shake down the town’s moonshine dealers, and a few things that are the responsibility of the police only because no one else takes care of them.

 

Sullivan doesn’t want the first homicide on his watch to be an open file and tasks Teresa Shimp, the most junior detective in a squad already down one, to spend as much time as she can on it. It’s Teresa’s first gig as primary homicide investigator. She sticks with it, going back over things to see what might make more sense as her knowledge of the case’s facts expands until she has a eureka moment.

 

Sullivan’s approach differs from Stush’s enough to cause friction in the department, and a personal dilemma for lead detective Ben “Doc” Dougherty. Doc also has his parents’ failing health, a dramatic change in the domestic situation of two young men he has become close to, and finding an old friend has colored outside the lines vying for his attention.

 

Penns River’s cast changes, as do the roles they play. The job is still the job.

 

LtS is the most Joseph Wambaugh-influenced of the Penns River series in the manner of storytelling, jumping from anecdote to anecdote to show the myriad of things cops have to deal with in a typical day. I’m happy with how it came out. I hope you are, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Leaving the Scene, Chapter One

 

I used the opening of Leaving the Scene to set up the changes in Penns River since Pushing Water and to give little hints about what might be to come. The novel drop on Monday from Down & Out Books.

 

LEAVING THE SCENE

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The American Legion function room was about half empty when Ben “Doc” Dougherty pulled a folding chair next to Stan “Stush” Napierkowski and asked what the plan was for tomorrow.

Stush tipped his can of Rolling Rock toward Doc in salute. “Get up around six. Make coffee. Read the paper.”

Doc waited until he was sure Stush had finished. “You do understand you’ll wake up retired, right? Live a little. Sleep till quarter after. Tempt fate and go for six-thirty.”

“It’s not like I’ll set an alarm. I been getting up at six for so long I do it on Sundays and vacations.”

They sat two feet apart, watching the room with cop eyes as the party lost steam. Doc asked if Stush had plans beyond coffee and the paper.

“I might run over to Oak Lake. See can I scare up a foursome.”

“They gave you a lifetime membership at the country club. I hear that’s a hell of a nice course.”

Stush nodded. “Might be the best course in the area except for Oakmont. Played it a couple of times when the big shooters around here still cared about schmoozing me.” A sip of beer. “Look who I’d have to play with. Same jagovs spent the last five years trying to run me out of a job.”

“Won’t they be working?”

“It’ll either be them or some of their asshole buddies.” Stush sipped and looked in the general direction of the country club. “Maybe I’ll sneak over some Monday when they let the caddies and hired help play. My people.”

Doc knew the aluminum mill would reopen and run three shifts before Stush played the country club. “You’re Polish. You should bowl.”

“I will. Joe Rychlinski’s been trying to get me on his team in the Tuesday night Falcon’s league for a couple years. Now I have time.”

Doc watched Stush take in everyone still there the way a father looks at a child leaving for college. Forty years a Penns River cop, twenty-five as chief. Doc turned down half a dozen six-figure private security jobs after nine years in the Army so he could work for his Uncle Stush. Uncle in name only. Stush and Doc’s father friends since they worked together at the A&P right out of high school, Penns River still a township. Spoke so no one might overhear. “You trained us well, Uncle Stoshu. We’ll be okay.” Stush turned when he heard his boyhood name, eyes shining. “Everything I hear about Sullivan says he’s a good man,” Doc said.

“Sully’s aces.” Stush crushed the empty can. Held it up for Doris Renko to see from behind the bar. “Don’t know if I told you, but part of the reason I retired now is because he was available and interested. And the country club membership.” A wink.

“You’ll miss it, though.”

“Goddamn right.” As much emotion in Stush’s voice as if discussing how much a putt might break. Gestured to the room. “This is what I’ll miss. The job’s been a pain in my ass for a long time. Gave me a heart attack a few years ago. Sullivan’s welcome to it.”

Doc sipped his Foster’s. The only guy in town who drank it. Doris always kept a couple of the big oil cans cold for him. “What would you say changed the most since you came on? Besides getting cars.”

Stush accepted a fresh beer from George Augustine. Asked after Augie’s daughter in the Air Force. Turned back to Doc only after satisfying his curiosity. “I walked a beat, smartass. Knew every family on it. I told a kid to stop or come over here and he didn’t, I ran him down and gave him a couple swipes across the hammies with my baton. Told him if it happened again I’d take him home to his father. Anything I did be like kisses from his mother once his old man got through with him.”

“White kids?”

“Mostly, yeah. Not all. See, I didn’t just know the families. They knew me. I’d tell them I had to smack their kid’s ass and why, everyone was good with it.”

“Can’t do that now.”

“No, and it’s a good thing. A cop in a unit riding around all day can’t have the same kind of rapport. Or judgment. There’s too much distance. Cop in a car doesn’t know the people as well, someone lips off to him could end up in the hospital. Puts everyone in a jackpot having to write around it.”

“You must’ve put your share in there.”

Stush held up a finger. “One.” Saw Doc’s face. “Swear to God. Little half-pint Dago hanging around down by the tracks looking to boost stuff outta the boxcars pulled a knife on me and took a swipe.” Swallowed beer, his eyes smiling at the memory. “I guaran-goddamn-tee you that little cocksucker never pulled on a Polack again.”

The two men watched in companionable silence as the party wound down. Peers now after Doc had proven himself as a cop and a man more times than either could remember. Stush swished a sip of beer around in his mouth before he swallowed. “How’re the troops taking to Snyder as deputy?” Promoting Nancy Snyder from patrol to deputy chief over several men with more rank and seniority was Stush’s final personnel decision.

“My first choice would’ve been Mike Zywiciel, but he made it clear he didn’t want the job. To be honest, he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory during that active shooter business at Rose’s last winter. He’s better off running patrol, though I doubt he’ll last a year with you gone.” Doc shook the last crumbs of pretzel and salt into his mouth. Washed it down. “Nancy’s probably a better choice. She has a good idea of the big picture, doesn’t rattle, and I doubt the mayor or any of the assholes who actually run this town will intimidate her. She’s fine.”

“Just fine?”

“What do you want me to say? She’s going to reinvent police work? My biggest issue with her getting the job is we’ll miss her on patrol.”

“And?”

“Jesus, Stush. And what? I have no problem working for her if that’s what you’re asking. Hell, I like working for her. She’s smart and on top of things, and she doesn’t play favorites with the people who were friends before the promotion. If you’re so worried about how she’s working out, why didn’t you let Sullivan pick someone?”

“Because he would’ve picked you, and you would’ve felt like you had to take the job, and I know how much you don’t want it.” Went on while Doc still gathered his thoughts. “Benny, you’re the most respected person on the force. You’d have been the perfect bridge between the old and the new, Sullivan’s obvious choice. Even the assholes who’ve been running me out would’ve recommended you as the best man to lubricate the transition.” More beer. “I know Sully a little. From conferences and around. He’s a persuasive guy. He’d of used arguments I never would because you and me go back so far. Guilt you into taking the job you’d hate. Not just hate it; hate it. I appointed Snyder as my parting gift to you, and because she was the next best qualified once I saw Zywiciel wasn’t up to it. Sullivan doesn’t want her, he can get rid of her.”

Stush seemed surprised to find himself leaning half out of his chair. Sat back and drew in some beer. “I didn’t bring her up to talk about you. How’s everyone else taking it? The people who wouldn’t tell me, I mean.”

“About what you’d expect. Some think she jumped the line. Some don’t like working for a woman. Some just like to bitch. Mostly everyone’s fine with her, and she’ll handle the others. From what you tell me about Sullivan, I doubt he’s going to put up with much bullshit, regardless of the reason.”

“Sully’s going to come down hard for a while, showing everyone else how far up the tree he can piss.” Stush folded his hands across his belly in his standard thinking pose, can of Rolling Rock poised between his fingers on the shelf. “She’ll be fine. Retiring now wasn’t exactly my idea, but my conscience is clear.”

The two men nursed their beers, far enough into the evening to know they didn’t want any more but not yet ready to go home. People came by every few minutes on their way out to congratulate Stush or break his balls or show they wanted to say something even if they had no idea what it was. Stan Napierkowski and Ben Dougherty were the closest things to heroes Penns River had. One was stepping down and the other wasn’t stepping up. Penns River lost something here tonight, and the town had little left to lose.

 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

New From Down & Out Books on May 17: Leaving the Scene, Book Six of the Penns River Series

 

The sixth Penns River book, Leaving the Scene, drops May 17 from Down & Out Books. Changes are afoot.

·       Stush Napierkowski has retired so

·       There’s a new chief.

·       There’s also a new deputy chief, promoted from within;

·       A new patrol officer begins work;

·       Series protagonist Doc Dougherty has an unwelcome change of status.

 

All the above and more revolve around a hit-and-run fatality. Two high school boys running their dog discover a badly mutilated body at an abandoned service station. She has no identification, so the police can’t even start work on the case until they have a name.

 

The daily crime and general weirdness that affects a town the size of Penns River doesn’t stop because the cops have a stone whodunit dropped in their laps. Routine calls for domestic disturbances, petty theft, grand theft, armed robbery, court dates, and a man covered in cooking oil wearing nothing but a sock. The new chief, a retired Boston police captain, finds himself up to his ears the day he starts work in what was supposed to be a less stressful position.

 

Six books into a series now with at least one more on the way (the work in progress is in final revisions, at least until the editor gets hold of it), and another half-formed in my head, the risk of staleness is always on my mind. Finding different types of stories and new ways to tell them now occupy a lot of my creative energy. Since Leaving the Scene focuses on conflicting demands for the cops’ time, the book is not laid out in chapters; it’s divided by days. Each section begins with the day and date; the time of day each scene begins is noted at the outset. The plan was to keep the passage of time in the reader’s mind as a way to show the frustration the cops feel as things keep dragging on with no resolution to the homicide.

 

Here’s what others have to say about Leaving the Scene:

 

A small town, a killing, and a cast of characters tough enough to make Elmore Leonard grin. Dana King’s Leaving the Scene is a slow burn that will leave you wanting more. A great read!

— Bruce Robert Coffin, bestselling author of the Detective Byron mysteries

 

Great read- ensemble cast, police procedural in a tough, blue-collar-town, with good reminders of classic Ed McBain. Gritty and authentic detail, with realistic, interesting characters and crimes.

-- Dale T. Phillips, author of A Memory of Grief and A Darkened Room

 

Dana King’s Leaving the Scene delivers the goods—a procedural packed with smart dialogue, sharp plotting, and a vivid humanity that brings to mind the best of McBain, Wambaugh, and Connelly.

--James D. F. Hannah, Shamus Award-winning author of the Henry Malone series.

 

With interweaving plots and quickfire dialogue, the relentless pace of Leaving the Scene is highly addictive.

--Caro Ramsay, Dagger shortlisted author of the Anderson and Costello mysteries

 

Next week I’ll post a teaser from the book.

 

 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Coming May 18: The Eviction of Hope

Once again, an editor who should have known better has asked me to lower the standards for an anthology. This one is special.

 

First off, I had my work cut out for me. Here’s the list of the other writers involved: Hector Acosta, Mark Bergin, Joe Clifford, Paul J. Garth, Carmen Jaramillo, Dana King, James L'Etoile, Gary Phillips, Matt Phillips, Tom Pitts, Travis Richardson, John Shepphird, Holly West and Frank Zafiro. I don’t think even I on my worst day could take the edge off the excellence this group conveys. So the pressure’s off.

 

Second, this is as well-conceived an anthology as I have seen or heard of. There’s not just a unifying theme for the stories; there’s an actual bible. It was half a dozen pages of history, logistics, characters we could share, and rules to observe so no one inadvertently stepped on anyone else’s story.

 

Now that I’ve piqued your interest, here’s the lowdown from editor Colin Conway himself:

 

It’s eviction day for The Hope Apartments. The residents have known about it for over a year. It’s too bad they ignored all the warning signs.

 

More than a century ago, developer Elijah Hope constructed a state-of-the-art hotel. As the generations passed and tastes changed, The Hope spent two decades as an underutilized office building before conversion into a low-income housing project.

 

Rundown by years of human occupation, The Hope has become a hollow shell of its once great self. It is home to drug addicts, petty criminals, and those hiding from others. The city has long turned a blind eye to The Hope as surrounding neighborhoods gentrified and pushed their disaffected in its direction.

 

But now The Hope is preparing a return to its original glory. The current owners plan to convert it into a boutique hotel. The only thing standing in their way is the eviction of over one hundred units.

 

Each resident knew this fateful day was coming, yet most chose to believe it would never arrive. They ignored the posted signs, the hand-delivered warnings, and even the actual notices.

 

Many stayed until the bitter end.

 

These are their stories.

 

I was, and am, supremely flattered to have been included in this collection. It’s different from anything I’ve ever worked on, and I tried to come up with a story that stretched my abilities. I’m happy with how my contribution turned out, and I know you’ll be impressed with the others, which I have read from the ARC.

 

The Eviction of Hope drops May 18. You can pre-order here.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Stylesheets

 

A few weeks ago we talked about grammar. (Well, I did. No one else had much to say.) That was supposed to include a discussion of stylesheets, but the grammar post was plenty long, so here we are today.

 

Stylesheets are fine, in their place. Newspapers or magazines need consistency, lest they look, and read, as if assembled by the proverbial thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters. I have a stylesheet of sorts for this blog to remind myself to enforce certain things I feel strongly about. (Oxford commas, for example. I acknowledge there are two schools of thought: those who use Oxford commas to provide clarity and flow to the writing; and those who are wrong.) It’s also my blog, so no one else’s opinion really matters.

 

Strict adherence to a stylesheet bothers me when publishers insist on one for all books. I have been fortunate that Down & Out Books isn’t hardcore about this, though I have had discussions with editors because I insist on something that doesn’t agree with the stylesheet they prefer. I understand, and agree, the book needs to be consistent throughout, but it is pedantic beyond description to think anyone cares that one author used Oxford commas and another from the same publisher was wrong.

 

I use punctuation similar to musical notation, especially in dialog. I’m trying to convey to the reader where the speaker hurried on or paused, and how long the pause is. This means I may use a period, comma, dash, or ellipsis in non-traditional manners that may not be welcome to a grammarian. I don’t want to have to argue about what the stylesheet says should go there. Paraphrasing Raymond Chandler, when I use an ellipsis/comma/period, God damn it, it is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive.

 

Grammar, of which punctuation is part, evolves, as even a quick reading of Lynne Truss’s delightful book Eats Shoots and Leaves will show. Too rigid an adherence to stylesheets will only stifle the inevitable changes. To pick a point in time when grammar was “correct” or “proper” is to deny the history of the topic about which such pedants claim to know so much. (There’s an example of classically proper grammar actually making the sentence harder to understand.) I’ll admit, the misuse of “less” when “fewer” is appropriate affects me as fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. That doesn’t mean I should be a bigot about it. (In my defense, “less” implies an analog, thus less specific, measurement; “fewer” is more digital.)

 

Do stylesheets serve a purpose? Absolutely. In their place. And that place need never be too broadly construed.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Talking Marketing with Beau Johnson

 

Finding out about author and cheese aficionado Beau Johnson is one of those serendipitous things that happen when you’re a writer who blogs. I don’t remember who put us together in the first place, but Beau has become a regular guest on OBAAT, and one I look forward to having. (Or why else would he be a regular?)

 

Aside from being a prolific short story writer, Beau is a tireless promoter of other people’s books. He’ll be here this summer when his new collection launches, but Beau posts almost daily on Facebook and Twitter about other authors’ work far more than about his own stuff. What is it about him that drives this passion to be supportive of others? Is it just because he’s Canadian? Read on to find the deeper motives behind this apparent selflessness.

 

One Bite at a Time: You tweeted recently about how hard it is for you to promote your own work, yet you enjoy doing it for others; my feelings are much the same. I know why I’m that way, and we may get into it later, but since this is your interview, why do you think this is the case for you?

 

Beau Johnson: Dana!  First off, thank you for having me here on your blog.  I always appreciate the space you give me.  As to your question: self-consciousness is the main reason I suppose.  I mean, I've seen that guy, we've all seen that guy, the one who promotes nothing but his or her own work endlessly?  I never wanted to be that guy.  I dread being that guy.  On the flipside, I came to understand no one else was going to push or care about my own work more than me. Since I was already doing my pay it forward thing (book pics for those that helped me during the release of my first book and some fine people who took me under their wing at my first and only con) I decided to expand and incorporate, settling on what I believe to be an 80/20 split.  I try to plug my own stuff no more than four times a week but if something other comes up, I'll adjust.  All told, it allows me to function on social media in a much better frame of mind.

 

OBAAT: I like that you have something of a formula to balance your promotional efforts. I need to come up with something like that myself, at least so I might be able to console myself by saying, “Sure, I flogged my book four days in a row, but I also posted or at least retweeted about three others each of those days.”  Do you ever find the balance hard to maintain? By which I mean, some days you just don’t feel like it?

 

BJ:  Ha! Yes, almost every day if I'm honest! Goes back to that self-consciousness thing---or something I call "too much Beau."  I mean, what I'm doing is fun, I choose to do it, (and seriously, there is no better feeling than making someone's day) but even I get sick of my mug after a while, you know?  However, I know I will never please everyone, so I go with the notion I'm only going to live once so I'm going to focus on the positives for the most part.  You don't like such things, and I'm quite sure there are people out there that do not, well, that's what the mute or block buttons were created for, right?

 

OBAAT: What’s the worst part of self-promotion?

 

BJ: I think you pretty much sum it up in your question. But to elaborate: I aim not to annoy or bore. 

 

OBAAT: I’m no shrinking violet. I enjoy time in the spotlight, whether it’s an interview or sitting on a panel. What kills me is asking people for those opportunities. Is that similar to your situation, or how does it differ?

 

BJ: Well, I think I have to be an extrovert to go about things the way I have.  I'll put myself out there, don't mind making light of myself, but really, I don't get many of the opportunities that you suggest.  I don't go looking for them either, so I have to own that too.  But when I say all this, I must add an addendum—this year and the end of 2020 have and are proving different. I have now been on three different podcasts (I wore a tie each time I swear!) with a fourth on the horizon, and attended and read at a Noir at the Bar, so things are looking up in the opportunity department.

 

OBAAT: Are you doing anything different to get these opportunities, or is it a matter of making the ask?

 

BJ: I'm not doing anything different, no, just a gradual process I think.  The pics, Beau's Book Nook, Not Beau's Book Nook, it seemed to hit a point where people began to really notice, or dug it, and hey, here we are.  I say this knowing full well I'm small potatoes compared to some, however, but hope to one day spread the greatness of what I like further than I'm currently able to.

 

OBAAT: You noticed an uptick in your sales the more you promote others’ books. Why do you think that is? Karma, or something more concrete?

 

BJ: I want to say that people have discovered the greatness which is Bishop Rider, and that word of mouth has travelled, but nah, it's karma, it's the writing community giving back, perhaps a little of both. I have no concrete answer really, Dana, but admit I'm enjoying the ride.

 

OBAAT: Have you ever considered a partnership with Kraft or Saputo to tie their cheeses to your books? Maybe some kind of a product placement deal? (You knew I couldn’t go an entire interview and not ask about cheese.)

 

BJ: Ha! I was hoping there'd be a cheese related question! For sure, let's get Saputo on the phone: we'll call it the Cheesening!

 

(Learn more about Beau and his books on his Down & Out Books page and his own web site.)