Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

On Bettering a Good Address

Well, it took me a long enough to reach this destination, the place I now call my GA.

But last night I removed the last small box from my old studio in Pioneer Square, dropping off my keys. And that was when I could honestly say I'd stopped moving and had moved. From Pioneer Square to First Hill...from the Tooney to the toney part of old Rain City.

Soon I'll post some photos of the hardwood floors, my first writer's desk and the wide open spaces. 
Today I want to toy with thoughts of the shifting that I feel within me.

On all fronts I want my life in harmony with my GA: a fusion of confidence, brio and boldness. I want these three things in my writing, my work, my promotional tacks, my relationships.

Speaking of work, for example...Why am I working for less than I'm worth? And where can I find a position that gives me more funding for ads? Quality of life: how can I get weekends off and holidays with pay?

From the GA an endless chain of linked thoughts commences. And here's the tune I have in mind:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Movin' to a Good Address

Now, after 3-1/2 years in Seattle, I get to re-enact my cross-country moving adventure, in a move of just 2 miles at roughly twelve times the speed.

I'd been by the logistics of moving for months. The biggest challenge: how to avoid paying full rent on both places for a month. forAt last, I gave notice on my present place on 3/10 with nothing for certain lined up. This was a huge gamble but one that paid off. For on 3/12 I learned that a studio had opened up in my first choice building. The price was a bit higher than I'd expected and I'd have to move in within 14 days of approval--in this case, by 3/26.  But the place was perfect in all other ways:
--Top floor studio with hard wood floors and a a closet big enough to serve as my first office ever.
--Great location--a real Good Address.
--Amazon-style lockers for deliveries.
--Vast laundry machine with payment by credit/debit card.

To reach my goal, a steely triad was the sine qua non: the need for razor-sharp focus...speed...and strategic thinking.

Here's my progress so far with the triad.
1) Movers: post notices at work and in the building lobby. Offer $100 plus bonuses if they show on time and don't break my Kenneth Cole standing valet.
2) Boxes: research led me to Frog Boxes and a phone call cinched the deal. At a reasonable cost I'm having 15 large plastic totes delivered to my present address on 3/21, then picked up on at the new address on 3/28. These will be sturdy and uni-sized, easy for movers to stack on dollies...and easy for me to pack in an organized way. 15 totes will be more than enough, since I've already boxed all my books and DVDs.

3) Furniture: recently, I bought a good used desk and bookcase in advance, knowing they might both be gone when I moved. Today I'll scope out a few other basics at the same place--and pay to have them delivered on the day I move.

And this is why I've been absent from this blog for so long. For New Year's I decided: 2018 was the time to come out swinging on all fronts, beginning with a long-time dream of a writer's office.

And mine will look something like this in good time.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Circus and The Hustle

Who doesn't claim to hate--in some cases even sincerely--the circus surrounding the launch of an ebook?  Barnum & Bailey may have collapsed its tents after 146 years but the spirit is alive and well online on any day.

Introverted writers are forced to compete with the extros for reviews, blog tours and interviews. At the end of the day there are only two classes: the quick and the dead.

Until now I've been one of the haters, clinging stubbornly to notions of good old days that never were, when all the writers were good pals, supporting one another until the cows came home. And so I wrote and published book after book, with no sense of the business behind sales success or the method of getting reviews.

For the new year I made a solemn vow to get my hustle on. 

I'm still growing as I go, but here is my report so far:
1) I've lined up a second reading at Seattle's Noir at the Bar, a chance to meet more writers and perfect my live reading skills.
2) I'm slowly balancing my bank of Facebook Friends to include more mystery/thriller writers. Because of my past writing in horror, the Friend requests I first received were largely in the genre. 
3) In March I'll launch the first title in my new Seattle BOP series. The new direction needed a new look, so I've changed cover designers. 
4) In the past few weeks I've contacted some pro portrait photographers with an eye on obtaining the right one for a late summer shoot. I chose the right one yesterday.
5) I've cemented my timeline for May. I'm saving like a maniac and orchestrating like Leonard Bernstein. To make my own way in the circus, I need a place with an office...and, by God, a writer's desk.
6) I investigated thoroughly legitimate methods of getting reviews. Plus how and whom I should approach. 
7) Today I began to implement my Top Secret plan. 

Busy? You betcha. But the funny thing is you won't hear me singing the blues about this. To tell the truth, I dig the hustle.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The First 5 Pages: Series Interruptus: Chapter 2

So I downloaded the free sample of Claude Bouchard's 13th Vigilante thriller, Make It Happen. Now. as this blog made clear last week I was looking forward to reading it. Naturally, you'd assume that I plunged right into it. After all, samples usually run up to 25 pages, no more. But the reading didn't go that way. I held back till the following morning. Why?

1)  The first reason was a scary one, based on my memories of agents and my reading of one scary agent's horrifying book:

In Noah Lukeman's version of hell, agents coldbloodedly skim the first 5 pages of submissions. Now and then, they'll speed-check 5 pages outs of sequence, looking for howlers, typos or yawns. You don't get 50 pages...or 30...or 20...or 10. You get 5--and then the boot if you haven't hit the ground running.

I knew that my own thinking had grown a lot closer to Lukeman's... and I feared I might not be as easily hooked as I had been years ago.

2) Plus, I was six books behind in the series and I wanted a binary mindset: reading as both a truant Vigilante fan and a reader who was new to Bouchard.

Come morning, I felt ready ready to do so.  And now I present my own

--To begin at the end of the 23-page sample, I felt hooked enough to buy the book, on which I'll report next week. Today let's consider the purpose of samples and why this one succeeds.
--Though the sample concludes with a hell of a bang, Claude Bouchard starts on a quietly ominous note: a lone motorbike rider in Pakistan putters along a dirt road toward a dilapidated farmhouse, in truth little more than a shack. The tone is gravely measured: 'He was well aware that he might be heading into a trap and, if he was, he had nobody else to blame but himself. After all, he had set the wheels in motion which had eventually led to this impending meeting...which might...put him in peril and even result in his demise.' Within three more pages, he's led by armed guards to the man he's come to meet: Abdel Omar Al-Tashid, the self-appointed leader of the State of Islam.
--By steady and subtle degrees, we're brought closer and closer to the two men's objectives. Then the narrative cuts deftly to characters preparing for an air show in Canada. Then to a terrorist who's come to implement the plan. I emphasize the smoothness of the writing because a writer less skilled or confident than Bouchard would have felt the need to zip along and hurry to the Good Part. For Bouchard every page is a polished part of the book's procession.
--The Big Bang at the end of the sample is as powerfully 'shot' as a big budget film. The writing technique brings out the big guns of style. And yet I was moved to buy this book before the big bang. I dug the smoothness of the writing. The fine touches of characterization. The assured sense of pacing. Sold.
--And what of Series Interruptus, my arriving here so far behind? There's no sign, by the sample's end, of the former vigilante, Chris Barry, or his cop-friend Dave McCall. Though the story's easy to follow, I'm left with a pleasant sense of mystery. A Vigilant novel without Chris Barry and/or Dave McCall?
--The cover, by the way, does a mighty fine job in portraying the explosive storyline.
--And talk about ending on a cliffhanger: I don't know if Bouchard planned the sample cut-off point, but few readers of the sample are not going to need to read on.

Till next week!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Series Interruptus: a Claude Bouchard adventure: Chapter One

You know what it's like. At least you do if you have favorite authors who are extemely prolific. Tending to one list, you let your others fall behind. Then, in turn, you turn to another...And so on and so forth. Soon enough, you've fallen behind on nearly of them. And you have that sinking feeling: How can you ever get caught up with X or Y or Z? You're ready to play Reading Bingo.

Your frustration is compounded when you're hooked on several series. In my case, I got hooked on Claude Bouchard's Vigilante series: loving their quirky wit, shocking twists and stylish prose. At the same time, I admired two series by Russell Blake, who's capable of writing 8 or 9 novels a year. And I do like to try to keep up with James Patterson,,,Michael Connelly...Harlan Coben...Robert Crais...and on and on and on.

This would be no problem if I were Pam Stack, capable of reading 400 novels a year.

But aside from reading, I work full-time and write a few hours each day.

Which brings us back to Claude Bouchard, whose 13th Vigilante novel has just hit the online shelf. 

Make it Happen (Vigilante Series) (Volume 13)

The subject interests me and I really dig the fact that CB took his time with this, refusing to hurry the novel along. But I drifted about midway through the series--blame that on Russell Blake--and in time I starting wondering if I could recover from Series Interruptus

Still, now that I'd written a number of standalone Boss MacTavin mysteries...and have just finished a new spinoff series...I wanted to approach CB's #13 as a new reader--and see how cleverly and carefully he brings a new reader into the fold.

Step one: today I ordered a Kindle Sample.  Tonight, I'll see if the sample compels me to part with cold cash.

Tomorrow: my reaction.

Then, if all goes well: my end report of this book as a it works as such--and why...and if it succeeds in sending me back to #6. 

Till then.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Noir at the Bar Seattle

It was the first time I'd set foot in a bar in over thirty years. And it left me wanting to shout three words I'd sworn would never again pass my lips:

But I hadn't gone to Seattle's Hotel Sorrento to drink. In fact, back in my drinking days, its Fireside Room wouldn't have been my kind of joint. A bit too rooty-tooty, I'd have thought, for a swaggering tough like myself. 

The old time decor might have been fine--I'd have told you way back when--for Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade but not for a fan of Bukowski or the Stones. But, older and dry now for decades, I was not only reading Chandler, Hammett, MacDonald et al...I'd written five mysteries and started my sixth.

Now I'd been invited to the Fireside Room to join Seattle's Noir at the Bar, affiliated with a nation-wide quarterly NATB events. And I decided to change my No Bar rule to allow some cool quarterly Noir Bar. So I went to the Fireside Room last night, 1/11, and was blown away.

It's hard to know where to start with the praise. But let me start with the room and the vibes. Instead of  the average horror or fantasy convention, the atmosphere evoked the genre perfectly. And, yes, Spade, Marlowe or Archer would have felt at home there. So did the crowd of readers and writers who'd come to celebrate Noir.

The lineup included writers at the start of their careers and those who've been around the track--not to say older--like me. And readings ranged mostly from 5-10 minutes. Just one exception, really, that ran close to twenty--but still held the room captive. 5-10, though, seemed ideal--enough to give a fair taste of our wares and leave them wanting more.

I left with the names of ten writers, including the host Will Viharo, whose work I'll be reading in the next few months. I also left with the joyous sense that I'd connected with readers who weren't there to party or fatten their bank of connections but to celebrate this genre with other kindred souls.

One of those ten names isn't listed on the above poster. Jim Thomsen had had to cancel at the last minute...and was replaced by Pearce Hansen, author of Street Raised and other classic cult mysteries. Ironically, Pearce had been living in Seattle but was moving out the next day. We talked briefly and exchanged books. I hope to keep in touch with him because, in a short time, we bonded.

One closing note: high praise for Will (The Thrill) Viharo, who kept it all running like a fine Swiss watch. Thanks, Will.

And oh, just one last final note: in the many years I've been writing, last night was the closest I've come to feeling I'd made my way home.

Monday, December 25, 2017

My Surprise Christmas Gift--to Myself

Have you ever given yourself a gift you never knew it was in you to give? I laid eyes upon mine this morning and cried out in a calm and dignified voice:

You see, I'd been facing a challenge that I couldn't guess how to beat. You all have yours and I had mine: how, as a busy writer with limited means, to transform my small, cluttered, barely furnished studio into a cool and cozy place...while looking for a better place and organizing what I have so that it's ready for use now--and when I do move. To begin with: the clutter was astonishing. Time and again, I would look, then give up, not knowing how or where to start. 

The place is in this photo's not mine, but my place could more than compete:

Actually, my situation was worse in that I had no file cabinets or even a book case because I knew that additional furnishings would cost additional hundreds of bucks with a mover. And despite my Seattle successes--the loss of 55 pounds...12 ebooks and 4 print editions...a new job in a dream location--despite all that, I'd given up on solving my clutter dilemma while I prepared to move.

But then I gave myself this gift: the idea of tackling one tiny section each day, beginning with a window sill piled with godawful clutter..the next day proceeding to the next....and, when the 5 window sills were cleared, I'd set in on a single stretch beginning with the bed and carrying on to the north wall. On the 5th night, when the sills were cleared, I began to feel--well, almost buoyant. And I began to see the real beauty of the gift:

If I followed what I now saw as the Single Strip Procedure--tackling one two-foot strip at a time--I could accomplish both goals at once: neatly boxing what I don't need and arranging impeccably everything else. Not only that, as I proceeded I'd buy the furniture and furnishings I needed for the single strip at hand: new linens, for instance, for the bed, plus a bookcase and/or racks for books and DVDs. 

The entire process should take me roughly a month. But I'm telling you, my friends: those window sill sure look terrific! And the first, bed-wide, strip is comin' right along.