Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Grace Paley died?

The Viktor Petrenko Action Movie...

Actually, what i'd like to know is if anyone out there would pay money to watch a Viktor Petrenko action movie. I'm toying with a script idea and I will be going out to L.A. in October to attend a festival of idea pitching called Screenwriters Expo. Since there are a lot of action heroes out there, I'm wondering if there is room for one more indestructible man.

If you've read my Viktor P. stories, let me know what you think. Why would the world need to hear about Viktor? What seperates him from Jason Bourne, for instance? besides the accent...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas

Will Thomas is one of my favorite mystery writers because his stories are always great fun. The characters he has constructed for his Victorian England set novels - Cyrus Barker (think Sherlock Holmes but with muscles and kung fu training) and Thomas Llewellyn (Watson, but much younger, Welsh, and scrappy because he needs to be) are endearing and interesting so that I'd be happy to read about their doings even if they weren't solving a case.

Before taking up private enquiries for a living, Barker had lived and traveled extensively throughout Asia, working as a ship's captain at one point, marching with the British army at another time. This experience comes in handy as he tries to get to the bottom of who killed his previous assistant, the man Llewellyn replaced. That assistant had been from China and it turns out the he may have died because of his brief possession of a book from that country - the Limehouse text of the title. The book is no ordinary book - it teaches secret ways to kill.

"Dim mak" is apparently a real martial art and among the teachings are how to disrupt a person's inner workings with just a touch. In any event, this knowledge was never meant to leave the monastary it was stolen from and it certainly wasn't meant for Western eyes. The text gives Barker a second task to perform - find the killer and the book before it falls into the wrong hands.

Anyway, the characters are all richly drawn and it's great fun to watch them interact. The book is highly recommended.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Please Stand By...

I thought it was strange when my latest novel came out and a couple of weeks went by and there wasn't a single note from a fan. Not that I get a constant flood but for some years now it has been at least a constant trickle. Then, I had an article published in the NY Times (of all places) and again, not a single note except to a few people I sent links to directly. Now, I've never before been published in the Times, so I had no idea whether I'd get anything or not, but I figured on at least a note or two.

And I also had a short story published in an anthology, BRONX NOIR. I've had people talk to me in bookstores about liking my story, and, again, a few private emails, but nothing at all through my website. And my website was also posted when my story came out in Demolition, too.

Then I ran a contest on my website. All you had to do was send me an email through my website (just to show you'd been there, pretty much) and I'd enter you to win one of six copies of my latest novel. I advertised the contest on this blog but, more importantly, through a couple of mystery related places including DorothyL. No response. Not a single one.

So it dawned on me. Maybe the website isn't running, but it is. Maybe the email form isn't coming up, but it does. Maybe if you actually send an email, it sends you to an error page or something. It doesn't. Maybe if you send an email, it just disappears into a black hole never to be seen again and without the courtesy of an error message or a bounce back to let the email sender know something has gone wrong. BINGO!!!

If you have emailed me through my website in the past three or four weeks, I have not gotten it. Sorry. I am trying to figure out if I can retrieve those old messages, but that may take some time. If not, I will certainly re-run the contest for those interested.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Black Orchid Party

Of course I'll be there. Bonnie and Joe were the first bookstore owners to know who I was before I had mentioned my name. It was back in the dusty days of 2002 and my first book had come out - Precinct Puerto Rico. I was on a journey to make sure that all four of the NYC mystery bookstores carried a copy. They already had twenty-five and hhopes that they could contact me. In pre-Rachel Ekstrom days, the publicity people at St. Martins had told them I had moved from NYC and would not be returning for signings. The first part was true. The second utterly false.

Over the years, Bonnie and Joe have been like family. When I'm in the city, I try to make it over there, and they've always had time for me even though it is clear I am hardly their best selling author. I feel sorry for new authors who'll have to enter the field without their support.

The party tonight ought to be a good one, rain or shine. I'll meet a dozen people I know. I'll schmooze though I'm not a great schmoozer. I'll have a grand old time. Then I'll get back on the train to Connecticut knowing that I've attended the last of the Black Orchid anniversary parties, and the ride home is just long enough to be sad in.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Country Man is I

The Aspen Tree Service came by a week ago or so and cut down twleve trees on my property. Excellent job in case you're looking for an estimate...Anyway, I asked them to leave the trunks in cut up into 16 inch logs (rounds, I think). In any case, the idea is that I would split the logs into fireplace worthy chunks...me and my trusty eight pound maul.

But a 16 inch length that's tirty inches across is a big ass log. And twleve tree trunks is a hell of a lot of wood. A hell of a lot. Anyway, even worse, the biggest trees were elms.

Two things I've learned which I didn't want to know really -

1 - Elm is a horrible, horrible type of wood to split. It's stringy, holds together really well...in fact, if you want a type of wood that WON'T split, choose elm.

2 - An overstrike is a bone rattling thing, and not just bone rattling for a moment - your bones will rattle for hours after you've put down your maul and gone inside. And damn me for being, as they say, big boned.

Of course, I could rent one of those log splitting machines, but that would go against my grain (pun). It's like I've started a fight and of course, you can't just walk away from a fight.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Be Prolific

I got my copy of The Noose, the newsletter of the New York Chapter of MWA. Page three has me listed for six publication credits - a novel, two short stories, and three interviews. Next month, I have another short story coming out with SHRED. After that, nothing planned except teaching and paper grading and some conference attendance. So, whether your browsing bookstore shelves, surfing the internet, reading Crimespree or leafing through Mystery Scene, you're bound to see me.

Now, will any of that make you buy my book? God, I hope so. Plenty of work went into one of the tidbits of promotional advice J.A. Konrath frequently gives out - be prolific. Having your name out there in as many different places as possible can only lead to greater name recognition and this softens the soil for sales (several sibilants there, but I can't seem to stop...). Fact is, however, that I published seven short stories last year, along with several interviews and a novel and that novel has been read by exactly nine people. Last year's haul of stories included a near novella length story in AHMM (150,000 subsscribers) and a story in CrimeSpree that went on to earn me a Derringer.

What I then ask myself is whether readers don't begin to feel that they've seen enough and know me and my writing and therefore don't have to read the books.

Anyway, no difference. I have to rewrite my latest creation THE CONCRETE HEART. I've never had to rewrite anything before, so this will be painful. Also, I'm writing a thriller (I think). Plus I have a couple of short stories to type out. Oh, and a movie script. That's hard.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


A reminder: Over on my website, there's a contest to win a copy of The Concrete Maze. Free! It costs nothing to enter, but the reward...well, the reward is...worth $7.99.*

Random sample from page 84:

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Open the glove compartment.”
I did as I was told and there was a revolver in a little black leather waistband clip holster sitting on top of the insurance papers and the envelope with the car owner’s manual.
“Take it. Now, turn around a little in your seat until you can see him, and keep that thing pointed at him. It’s very simple. If he moves, squeeze the trigger.”
Since a soon to be awake and pissed off Nestor was in the back and the car was already moving, I did as I was told. Tio Luis caught green lights for a long while. Had the car stopped or gone slower, I would have jumped out.

Doesn't make sense to you out of context? Then get a copy! Free!

*No, I will not just give you the cash instead. Nor can you choose a different book of similar value...Jeez.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Barry Bonds Edition

I used to know all the stats, and I do mean all of them. Roberto Clemente died with exactly 3,000 hits to his credit. His last hit was a double off of Mets pitcher Jon Matlack who retired, if I recall correctly, with a record of 126-125, but with an ERA, I think, of 3.25 which is not bad at all.

Now comes Barry Bonds to set a new record and where he'll end up is hard to say. But what to say about the steroids?

First, I'm not sure it's been proven conclusively whether he actually used the performance enhancing drug and if he did, then when and for how long and to what end?

From the start of his career, Bonds has hit the ball hard - compare his stats in 1993 (46 hr, 123 rbis, .336 ba) or 1996 (42, 129, .308) to every other year in his career and he comes up pretty much even...except, of course, for 2001 when he smashed his way to the single season HR record (73, 137, .328). Now, no one (that I know of) accuses him of using steroids in 1993. So the real problem is 2001. But then...

Can steroids, which help you bulk up, really help a guy like Bonds who normally doesn't muscle the ball out of the park? I mean, it seems to me most of his homers are due to bat speed. Steroids don't usually help with that, do they? Maybe.

Fact is, even without the supercharged 2001 season, Barry Bonds would be headed for the Hall of Fame. Give him a normal (for him) year - 43 HRs instead of 73. Right now he'd be at 726. That's not so bad. Unless we can also credit use of steroids for his missed time, namely most of 2005. Give him an average year there too - 45 HRs instead of just 5. If that's the case, he'd have broken the record weeks ago.

Lastly, if he did use steroids, he was probably one among many. Mark McGwire springs readily to mind, but not much was said about his steroid use back when he was playing. (Okay, it was said, but I don't remember the outrage I sometimes hear surrounding Bonds.) And if anyone argues that steroids can improve your upper body agility, then I have no doubt that many pitchers have taken the drug so Bonds' use kept him on par with those guys...No edge if everyone is using...

Steroids didn't improve his bat speed and it certainly didn't improve his eye for the ball - he was getting well over a hundred walks a season long before 2001. They also didn't help him to over 500 stolen bases. People forget what an athelete he has been over the years.

Anyway, I say congratulations Mr. Bonds...and good luck getting that ball back.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Don't forget...

If you've been looking for a hardboiled, noir story to sink your teeth into, The Concrete Maze is available for free if you go to my homepage and enter the contest. It's free and easy, so give it a try. At the end of the contest, I'll be pulling names from a hat or similar receptacle and mailing out copies.

If that isn't your cup of tea - if you'd prefer NOT to travel all the way to my site, then CrimeSpree Magazine will be giving away a few copies as well.

Good luck!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Don't Know How Long It Will Last...

But my publisher has my latest book posted on their website right next to a title by Cornell Woolrich. Funny thing that. Is it good to be placed next to a giant in the field or is that going to be bad for me? Well, given my normal sales, won't make a bit of difference one way or the other, I suspect.

Did a booktalk at a library in the Bronx on Saturday. Sold one book. Fielded questions for a full hour though. Had a thousand word article published in the Sunday New York Times yesterday. Some people mentioned that this, if nothing else, should help sales. No evidence of that just yet. The Amazon numbers, of course, tumbled about 100k after the article appeared. A little hard to explain.

I worry since I don't have contracts for new material. A book should come out from St. Martin's next summer, a Precinct Puerto Rico one, but they bought that from me about three years ago. Ah well, fun while it lasted and all that...

NYC Latinos...

If you haven't seen it yet, a couple of days ago one of my favorite writers, Manuel Ramos blogged about Jerry Rodriguez, Michele Martinez and yours truly. He had good things to say, and so I link...

Ramos is one of the smoothest prose stylists working in the mystery field today. I've called his prose something akin to sweet jazz music before. And he's written one of the best noir novels you'll ever find. It's called Moony's Road to Hell. Ask Jennifer Jordan. Praise from him, then is something to savor.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The New York Times Article

The New York Times has seen fit to publish some of my reminisces about growing up in the Bronx. Here is the link. It was not a pretty time. I tell some stories about how my dad worked as an exterminator and as a janitor. Neither one of those jobs is liable to give joy. Anyway, I left out one of the more disturbing stories from the article because my father only reminded me AFTER the thing had been written.

Enjoy. Then go out and buy my book, The Concrete Maze which is all about an exterminator...The Exterminator of Doom!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I'm Writing for The New York Times

Got confirmation yesterday that the NEW YORK TIMES! will be running an article I wrote about life growing up in Da Bronx. More than a little exciting. No. I didn't mention you...

I did mention Paul Newman and how he came to my neighborhood to film a scene from his romantic comedy Fort Apache, The Bronx... The grand majority is about my father and his efforts working two jobs so he could get his family the hell out of the Bronx.

Interestingly, Ed Dee, a terrific crime novelist, was a police lieutenant in the precinct two blocks from my home while I was living there. He also was inspired by the setting.

There's also going to be a slideshow with audio by me and my father on the Times website starting tomorrow. Of course, I'll link when I get an address. Wonder if I'll have to pay to see the slideshow? Of course, I would. It'll be a hoot. My father wouldn't since (as I'm sure he'd point out) he's seen me plenty.

Anyway, the thing runs in the City Living section so if you don't live in the City, you won't be getting it. Sorry. It's a column called New York Observed. It should be available online. What the ultimate title of my particular piece will be, I haven't got a clue. I called it "The Bronx is the Place You Just Left."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Viktor Petrenko Rides Again

Bryon Quertermous has seen fit to publish another of my Viktor Petrenko stories over at Demolition Magazine. In this one, Viktor gets a beating. What's happens after that isn't so good either. Let's say it is another Viktor Petrenko love story. That means there's flowing blood in it.

Interestingly, this is another story that was inspired by the call a couple of years ago for a short story with a police auction theme. The one that ran way back when is still somewhere on my site. Try here. Not sure which is the better story, but I have a soft spot for the first one.

In any event, a Viktor Petrenko novel is in the works. Will anyone pay me for it? No idea. There are a couple of them. In one of them, Viktor gets out of jail and retrieves one of the items sold at the police auction from the suburban family of four that ultimately purchased it. Laughs all around.

Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Back Story to my Bronx Noir Story...

My story in Bronx Noir is a nasty little piece. I suppose it's supposed to be - after all, the anthology does have the word "Bronx" in the title. Here's the scoop:

I knew a lady, a saintly lady, who used to go to my church. She wasn't one of those people who look down their noses at you and whose profane nature comes out with just a scratched. No. She brought home drug addicts and prostitutes to give them hot meals - not a soup kitchen. Her kitchen. She gave spare clothes to these people and even gave them a place to sleep in her own apartment if they didn't have one. Not like they were her family members except in the way that we're all family on this planet.

Anyway, once I asked her why she did this. She looked at me like I should have known her story. "I was like that," she said. I thought I knew what she meant - we're all sinners until God's saving grace, etc. Nope. She had been addicted to heroin. Used to shoot up. Used to pay for the smack selling herself on the streets. Had a husband she loved but who was in just as bad a shape. They were homeless at times, on the streets at times, but always together - high like that.

One night, passed out and snoring, she woke up. A man was creeping through the bedroom. She reached under her pillow and when he made his move to get on top of her, she stuck him in the gut with her knife. It was a big knife and her husband bled out in her arms. She was screaming with tears when the police came to take her away. She did hard time but came out changed. Saintly.

This woman - since moved on to her next life - is the basis for a major character in "Early Fall."

Another woman is one whose name I never knew. I was walking through this very rough part of the Bronx one night, when I came upon a woman who was trying to get back on her feet. Literally. Her nose was bloody and she was disoriented. Two of her customers had decided to smash her in the face with a rock rather than pay her. They had driven off. The rock was at her feet. A squad car came by a minute later and I flagged them down. They didn't get out of the car. She told her story, described the men and the car. They rolled their eyes. None of it written down, not a pen taken out to even pretend interest. "Don't you think it's time for you to go home?" one asked her. "I guess so, officer," she said. That's what happened. She went home.

This incident is a basis for a central one in the story. I can't say that every part of the story is true - what would be the fun of that? But it's grounded in truth. The truth of the Bronx way back when. Hopefully the story gives you some idea of what that was like.