A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Reb MacRath's First Annual December Reberoo Awards

Image result for awards ceremony

Welcome! I know, it's a gala event and you're feeling gangbusters excited. The ceremony this year has been restricted to DVD, Film and TV awards. Even so, remember: try not to block the aisle or jump up and down in your seats. Also remember: these awards are for shows, films or actors I've enjoyed this year...no limits on the year of the release or performance.

That said, let's get it on! But first, a little awards-style performance:

Thank you, Freddie. Onward now!


Favorite Current TV Drama:
The Good Wife, Season 7. Hard to believe that this great show may be in its final season. This season's as strong as the best of the past: complex, full of surprises, and deeply moving.

Favorite Past TV Historical Drama:
Rome, Season 1. From Caesar's Gallic campaign to his assassination, this show never scrimped on style, drama, controversy, or suspense. Easy to see why some have called this first season the greatest ever event on TV.

Most Compulsively Rewatchable TV Shows
1) House of Cards, Seasons 1-3.
2) Prison Break, Seasons 1-4 for me, but 1-2 for many.
3) Have Gun Will Travel: 6 seasons of 25 minute episodes that rarely missed the bull's eye and never missed the target completely.

Favorite Female Performances on TV:
1) Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife.
2) Claire Danes, Homeland

Favorite Male Performances on TV
1) Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
2) William Fichtner, Prison Break

Favorite Portrayal of Julius Caesar:
Ciaran Hinds, Rome Season One, is second to none. Accept no substitutes.

Favorite Comeback by a Blacklisted Actor
Wentworth Miller, who rarely worked after admitting he is gay, returned in a series of guest stints on the Flash. These grew into a big ensemble role in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow--and the lead in next year's Prison Break Season 5.

Favorite actor of all time in a TV western.
Richard Boone, as Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel. Rough and tumble, elegant, witty, erudite, relentless, vulnerable.

            Intermission: Required Embarrassing Moment

Well, it wouldn't be a real awards show without one dreadful embarrassing moment. So, let's pause for a wardrobe malfunction:

                                                            FILMS ON DVD

Favorite Films That Improved with Rewatching
1) Tombstone: Western excitement at its very best, with an electrifying performance by Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. 'I'm your Huckleberry"!
2) High Noon: I was too young when I first saw it to appreciate its real-time, slow fuse beauty. 88 unforgettable minutes with Gary Cooper at his best.
3) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Writer Shane (Lethal Weapon) Black made delightful comeback with help from an actor who needed one too: Robert Downey Jr. Another great performance from the underrated Val Kilmer. Real wit abounds here instead of the Black's usual zingers and quips.
4) Casualties of War, directed by Brian De Palma. I didn't 'get it' the first time around. But this year it blew me out of the back of my chair.

Favorite Dementedly Correct DVD Packaging
1) The dual packaging of Wall Street and its sequel Money Never Sleeps: the case for both measures a gigantic 11" x 6.5".
2) The heartlessly cheap packaging of 4 Lethal Weapon films--with all four discs mounted on a single spindle--mirrors the fate of the franchise: the same movie made over and over again with less and less feeling each time.

Favorite Rediscovered Director
Brian De Palma, brilliant beyond belief in: Femme Fatale, Body Double, Casualties of War, Dressed to Kill, Carlito's Way, Blow Out...and on and on.

Favorite Masterpieces Buried by Spineless Studios
1) Heaven's Gate: The Director's Cut.
2) White Dog, directed by Samuel Fuller.
3) Sorcerer, directed by William Friedkin
4) Killer Joe, directed by William Friedkin

Favorite Just-Discovered Horror Classic
Diabolique--the film Hitchcock had wanted to make was done just right by a Frenchman.

Favorite Comebacks by Fallen Superstars
1) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Tom Cruise found his gravitas and dropped the grinning boy toy act in this series landmark.
2) John Wick. Keanu Reeves came roaring back after battling depression and crappy reviews for whatever he did. One of the best action films ever made. And, let's be glad, Keanu's plate is full again--with a half-dozen films in the pipeline, including John Wick 2.

Favorite Delivery of a Single Line of Dialogue
"Give me back my son!" by Mel Gibson in Ransom.

Favorite Bored Goodbye to a Once Favorite Franchise
Lethal Weapon: Buh-bye, buh-bye. The first entry was still rewatchable because of it had an emotional center: seriously suicidal cop looking for reason to live. The second was barely rewatchable. The third and fourth aren't worth my time.

          Intermission: Required Tasteless Joke Moment

A family walks into a hotel and the father walks up to the front desk to say, "I hope the porn is disabled." The desk clerk tells him in disgust, "It's just standard porn, you perv."

                           FILMS IN THEATERS

I seldom go to theaters now. So these awards are special.

Favorite Enraged Goodbyes to Once Beloved Franchises
1) Bond, James Bond. Daniel Craig and his bloated Spectre have ruined the franchise for me. Absolutely nothing but a brand new Bond will ever lure me back.
2) Jurassic World. Please, for God's sake, please--please!--can you stop this nonsense now?

Favorite Brilliantly Reimagined Classic
Creed. A new director with a passionately written script, terrific performances including an Oscar turn by Stallone, and a strong heart at its center.

Favorite Reboot of a Favorite Series
Max Max: Fury Road...directed by George Miller...with Tom Hardy, one of the world's greatest actors. Enough said.

Favorite Thriller Directed by an Unknown Name
Sicario. Hey, here's an idea. Get Denis Villeneuve to direct a different actor in the next Bond film...and I will go to the theater.

And happy holidays to all of you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blowout Boss MacTavin Sale--Phase 2: $1.99 each

Take advantage of my special holiday Amazon Countdown Event on the Boss MacTavin series, now priced at $1.99 each for two days...then going up and up once more. Here are the brand-new covers. Buy now before the prices begin to grow unScottish!

12/16: 12 a.m PST: $1.99 each
12/17: 4 p.m. PST: $2.99 each
12:19: 8 a.m. PST: $3.99 each
Sale ends 12/21 at midnight PST and price bumps to new regular price of $4.99

                 Links for all books:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Blowout Boss MacTavin Sale...starting at $.99

Take advantage of my special holiday Amazon Countdown Event on the Boss MacTavin series, starting at $.99 for two days...and then going up in increments. Here are the brand-new covers:

12/14, 8 a.m. PST: $.99 each
12/16: 12 a.m PST: $1.99 each
12/17: 4 p.m. PST: $2.99 each
12:19: 8 a.m. PST: $3.99 each
Sale ends 12/21 at midnight PST and price bumps to new regular price of $4.99

                 Links for all books:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Never Second Guess Your Instincts

As I wrote my new book, Caesar's Ghost, some parts cried for the present tense and some cried for the past. I just followed my instincts while writing. But then, as I went through the subsequent drafts, the Brutal Old Bastard (BOB) of my inner editor began to carp and criticize. Why here, not there, in the present? Why there, not here, in the past?

Now, I knew BOB was right on the money about not jumping tenses in a single paragraph--a source of confusion for readers. And I could understand BOB's preference for consistency: dream sequences or diary entries, for example, in the present tense. BOB might even be okay with all action scenes in the present--lending the scenes more urgency.

But, through the rewrites, BOB kept attempting to gain total control. Some scenes resisted--almost violently--my efforts to change tenses. My fingers would not hit the keys that would have changed the scenes. And it was time to let BOB know that he wasn't running the show, just helping to produce it. In fact, when given full control, BOB tends to trip on the feet of his rules.

I reached a compromise solution. I'd change any part from present to past tense--unless my fingers screamed in protest. And I'd devise a subtle way of highlighting my segues from the past to present tense. 

Many of BOB's rules are sound, while others are the barks of another century's harridans. 

Readers and viewers are fluent in the language of mixed time lines:

Point BlankThe LimeyProduct DetailsHomeland: Season 1

So I listend to BOB, with all due respect...but I followed my heart and my fingers.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Meet Lady Excitement: Diane Rapp

I discovered Diane Rapp through her High Seas Murder series a few years ago--and became an instant fan. I liked her polished, professional style and her tempering the traditional 'cosy' with a modern edge. How did she come to write these books?

I became an entrepreneur when I started a dog grooming salon in Santa Barbara, California. I spent the next thirty years as a small business owner; I sold real estate, owned an office supply/copy center, and performed free-lance advertising design. During those hectic years I wrote stories as a cure for insomnia. After onsite research and writing a Caribbean tour guide together, my daughter gave me the idea of writing a mystery set on cruise ships. Although part of a series, each book is a stand-alone novel.


                                          BRAND NEW RAPP EVENT!

Diane has some exciting news for fans of the series--and for those who've yet to discover the thrills of the High Seas. Her new book is at once a fourth series entry and a bold departure.

I've set November 30 as the release date for GOLDEN LEGACY.  I've decided to list all 3 of the HIGH SEAS MURDER books for a 99c sale starting November 27 thru Dec. 4 and have loaded the book for Pre-Order sales.

Pre-Order Legacy

How is this new book a return to form and a new departure?

Golden Legacy blends historical adventure with modern-day mystery in an exciting novel that follows two time lines. Embarking on a harrowing treasure hunt, two daring heroines tackle the hazards of gold country more than a century apart. Although a stand-alone novel, readers who have already met Kayla and Steven in the High Seas Mystery series, may enjoy their continued love story in the Rockies. See real places around Ouray, Colorado through actual photos within the narrative.

Ginny is a “modern” English gentlewoman traveling alone in the year 1888. At the age of twenty-five, she deems herself a spinster, admitting the condition results from her own decisions. After Ginny gains control of her own money, she sets out to travel the world, hoping to publish a series of travel journals. Upon landing in San Francisco, Ginny’s aristocratic life drastically changes course when she learns that miscreants shot her twin brother, Johnny. Ginny journeys by train from San Francisco to Ouray, Colorado, faithfully recording events in her journal. After tending to Johnny in hospital, the gutsy woman strikes out to locate his hidden gold mine, armed with courage, a fountain pen, and two sharp hatpins. It is her duty to deliver supplies and information to Nick, her brother’s business partner and dear family friend.

In modern day action, Kayla and Steven deal with aftermath from the aborted murder attempt on Kayla after their wedding. Plagued by turbulent dreams of drowning, Kayla develops a paralyzing fear of open water. She’s summoned to a dying aunt’s bedside and jumps at the chance to trade life at sea for the comforts of home in Colorado. To inherit the family legacy, Kayla must solve clues and locate the family gold mine. After reading Ginny’s journal and searching for clues scattered throughout a charming Victorian house, Kayla and her friends endeavor to find the mine. They cross hazardous terrain through wild country and face tricky problems inside the derelict mine. Old generators lie dormant, and they need to activate a trompe to open the “safe” inside the mine. Clues purloined from the house might guide disgruntled heirs to steal the treasure for themselves.

Kayla struggles to decipher the mystery before snow falls, testing her courage, ingenuity, and honesty to qualify for the golden legacy. Can she overcome fear to reveal what is most important to her future?

Previous entries in the High Seas Mystery series, priced at $.99 November 27 through December 4.

Murder Caribbean-Style is the first book in the series.
Readers meet the main characters and learn about life aboard a ship while solving the murder of Kayla’s ex-lover, Patrick. He’s made plenty of enemies as Chief Purser on the cruise line, including Kayla. She must learn what caused him to become a womanizer and thief before her friends are accused of the murder. When she teams up with Steven Young, a handsome British magician working undercover for Interpol, danger and romance are mixed with the action.

Murder on a Ghost Ship is the second novel in the series. 
Kayla is summoned back to work by cruise line Chairman, Emily Schultz. Emily bought a new ship for the cruise line but learns there is a ghost aboard, a very unhappy phantom. Emily is desperate to uncover the identity of the “Lady” and why she’s stuck aboard before the bad investment sinks her career. When Steven’s partner in an Interpol smuggling investigation is killed, Steven gets fired. He arrives onboard the ship to help Kayla solve her ghost problem, while the smugglers track him down and plan to kill him.

Murder for Glacier Blue is the third novel in the series. 
Kayla and her friends gather together on a “working” vacation to Alaska while preparing for her wedding on Glacier Bay. The team must guard six valuable paintings displayed next to authorized copies that will be auctioned for charity, six chances for thieves to score. The perfect wedding hits a snag when Steven’s ex-wife arrives on the arm of a childhood friend, and she’s intent on creating trouble. Enjoy photos of actual Alaskan attractions mixed into the narrative as you take a virtual cruise and solve an art heist and murder.

                     JOIN THE AUTHOR IN HER WORKSHOP

On the Golden Legacy page of her website, Diane discusses the book's genesis and the challenge of writing a mystery with a dual story line: half told in the present and half in an old journal. Enjoy this rare chance to visit the author in her workshop:




The High Seas Mystery series introduced me to her work. When I learned of her fantasy writing, I decided to give it a try though I don't often read in that genre. I'm glad I did. Really good writers can hook us whatever they've chosen to do--and Diane Rapp is one of the best.

To learn more about all of her books, here's the link:

Also, to connect with Diane:



Sunday, November 15, 2015

In Praise of The School of Hard Knocks

The last two lines contain the key: an ongoing curriculum.

On this cold, wet Sunday in the city of Seattle, I find myself thinking about this today: appraising my first year in the city...and my three years as an ebook author--after four published books and then 25 years in The Desert.

Conclusion: I have aced some  essential courses...but I am not, as I had thought, a PhD from this rough school. In fact, I've flunked a few courses and have more years of hard study ahead. Plus, some still worse knocks, I'm sure.

Literary and office politics (or politricks) continue to confound me, despite the progress I've made at writing, editing, cover designing, event promotions, online presence, etc. I've developed substantial followings on Twitter and Facebook. And I've continued to work on my usage of both. At the same time, I've revamped my resume for another job search.

Yet in this last month I've tanked in two job interviews. The numbers of my book reviews pretty mirrors their sales. I am no less mystified by cold shoulders from writers I've championed.

But, as a continuing student, I vow: no more miserable report cards like this:

Image result for f report cards

For the new semester, which has just begun--only in MacRathWorld can a semester begin in November!--I have a new instructor.

He was prominently featured in my last post on Authors Electric. His name is Balthsar Gracian and you'll find your introduction here:


Gracian's little book, The Art of Worldly Wisdom  is subtitled  A Pocket Oracle. And it is exactly that.


More than an oracle, or a manual, it is also the perfect antidote to the chief pop power guides, Machiavelli's The Prince and Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power. What I love about Gracian's The Art is its unique dual focus on material success and personal excellence.

It contains 300 pithy aphorisms. I plan to study one each day, then take the remaining two months every year for an intensive review.

Oh, the School of Hard Knocks will continue to deliver its tough, bruising lessons. But Gracian seems an excellent guide for dodging the worst of those lessons and enduring the handful that one can't evade.

Goal for my first years' tutelage under Gracian: to become an upperclassman in the hard knockin' school all attend.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

For Real--Danger Man Has Arrived!

The big post has gone Live today on Authors Electric!


Join me in my quest to make the world a better place...by Sharing this post with your friends!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Oh-Oh, Danger Man's Arrived!

In the past two weeks I've tried three times to write a dangerous post. Each time I began I backed off form the fray I knew that it would cause.

Finally, I've written it--but not for publication here. You'll have to wait just a few more days till it appears on a larger forum.

It's about power--how ruthless bastards steal it and try to keep you from getting your share.

It's about two books you'll be killed if you're caught reading.

It's about three camps of losers who are making one author dirt rich. But, joy, it is also about a fourth, exclusive, club of Enlightened Worldly Warriors who'll welcome you into their fold if you enjoy breathing more rarified air.

It's about refusing to give up what it is yours.

It's about reclaiming what you were foolish enough to renounce.

D-Day is:

August 12.


Authors Electric

Link: to be provided.

Be careful. I've just had a birthday and this one's a dangerous post.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

On Writers and Stylistic Nudist Camps

I came up croppers in my search for a leading photo: something that would prove my point that some writers should be banned from attempting stripped-down writing...just as some nude bodies should steer clear of public beaches. Or at least the internet.

Oh, there was no shortage of nudist photos. And, though none were shocking, some were far more graphic than I want to display on this blog: men and women playing with genitalia too common to call even average. I salute their lack of inhibitions. I salute their respect for what their bodies have become. But I flip the bird at the notion that all bodies become lovelier when they are shown in the buff.

Nudism may be a wonderful thing. But I'm no friend of the phenomenon when it comes to writers who disguise a lack of talent in a style that's stripped to the bone.

Let me perfectly clear here. I don't care if writers pose in the nude or semi-nude--though I'd really rather not have seen this shot of Ray Bradbury:


Or this one of Ernest Hemingway:


My sights are firmly fixed on stylistic nudists, those who march buck-talent talent under banners emblazoned with idiots' rules:

Avoid all adjectives.
Avoid all adverbs.
Avoid anything resembling fine writing. 

And so on and so on and so forth. Just as skinny high school girls ridicule the curvy Prom Queens ('Her boobs aren't real.'...'She must be an idiot if she's got a body like that.'..), so writers lacking a stylistic wardrobe insist--as they must--that it's best to go nude. After all, they'll tell you, it's more honest to go nude than parade in a stylistic wardrobe like this:

Or this:

Or one that reads like this:

"Once in the hands of Duncan Nicol it was translated, as by consecration in the name of a divinity more benevolent than all others, into pisco punch, the wonder and glory of San Francisco’s heady youth, the balm and solace of fevered generations, a drink so endearing and inspired that although its prototype has vanished, its legend lingers on, one with the Grail, the unicorn, and the music of the spheres.”
(Columnist Lucius Beebe, Gourmet magazine, 1957; quoted by M. Carrie Allan in "Spirits: Pisco Punch, a San Francisco Classic Cocktail With Official Aspirations." The Washington Post, October 3, 2014)

The answer, though, may lie between the purple and the overwrought. As Paul West said in his essay 'In Defense of Purple':

A writer who can't do purple is missing a trick. A writer who does purple all the time ought to have more tricks.

A great writer's style may wear a white suit. Pristine and bold, but with the jazz of the pocket square and tie.

Or his style may show in muted colors and classical lines with counterpoints of texture:

Calvin Klein Out in New York

His style may blend the quietly formal with the laid-back casual:

I'm open to almost any style as long as it's simple, with class and pizzazz. My favorite writer, Lawrence Sanders, had the style down to perfection:

Some days lasted forever; some were never born. She awoke in a fury of expectation, gone as soon as felt; the world closed about. Once again life became a succession of swan pecks.

Join me in my plaintive plea to all writers of buck-naked books:


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Little Freaking Beasties

Like nuns, some epiphanies seem to come in pairs.

A week ago I learned something I hadn't known about a boyhood hero of mine. Many of you know him as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Tarzan. Buster Crabbe (1908-1983) played those roles and many more. He was also won an Olympic gold medal for swimming in 1932. A man's man, Buster Crabbe walked the walk and swam the swim.

Buster Crabbe - publicity.GIF

But he became a real hero to me when I saw a news clip of him, in his sixties--looking trim and remarkably fit--performing a perfectly graceful high dive. Hell, all the old men I knew then were fat and exhausted and beaten. Not Crabbe. During his senior swimming career Crabbe set 16 world and 35 national records. He kept swimming through his sixties, and in 1971 set a world record for men in his age group.

With a certain  birthday approaching soon, I've had special cause to think of Crabbe. Maybe there's still time for me compete...at least in Tai Chi or Hot Yoga? Anyway, Googling, I was saddened and shocked to learn that Buster the Bold died of a heart attack at age 75 after tripping over a wastepaper basket at home.

Not broken bones or a concussion...a heart attack--as if from fright. Terror or shock from the loss of control? Done in by a Little Freaking Beastie?

We've just come to a fork in the road. Let's turn left.

Image result for fork in the road

A Little Freaking Beastie came for Reb MacRath the other day. The opening could not have been smaller: my usual Amazon locker site was booked, so I couldn't receive a DVD I couldn't wait to watch. Plan B: I had it sent to another site, one not too far from the first. A text message soon informed me that the DVD was there. Hooray! I mean, let's put this in proper perspective. This wasn't any DVD. This was I, The Jury, starring the great Armand Assante in his only outing as Mike Hammer. And I'd come to remember AA's performance as definitive.

I, the Jury (1982)

But...The Little Freaking Beastie pounced! I could not find the address. In Seattle you can walk for blocks without find a building that's numbered. The DVD awaited at "800 5th Ave GARAGE", per my notice. I asked for help, finally, and was confidently sent three blocks south...in the wrong direction. I tried Googling 5th Ave GARAGE and 800 5th Ave GARAGE. Nothing. I tried Google Mapping the address, but the illustration unclear.

I tossed and turned all night, head pounding in a frightening way. Something terrible was happening. The great Armand Assante had been delivered to an address the Little Freaking Beastie was determined to keep me from finding.

Come morning, my anxiety soared. Not even Amazon, in a live Chat, could tell me precisely where Armand was hiding. I didn't want a replacement! I didn't want a refund! I wanted, and needed, the DVD NOW!!!

By lunch, I felt ready for either ER or Bedlam

I would never get the DVD because I wasn't meant to have it. The address didn't exist. And--

The phone rang at work. I was rescued by a call from a nutcase in Gig Harbor, haven of the toney rich. A guy with six cars on his account--3 BMWs, 1 Lex and 2 Cadillacs--went stark raving berserk because of a twenty-five cent error on his bill. He'd been in queue for 45 minutes and proceeded to raise hell for twenty more minutes over a twenty-five cent error that could be fixed in seconds.

Epiphany. I was talking to myself...or to an echo of myself in a rage over an address I couldn't find for my life. But, talking to this nut, I knew: I was only angry on the surface at the bad address...just as he was only angry on the surface at the missing quarter. I was angry because this bizarre mishap seemed to embody--well, many things. In fact, all the things that are beyond my absolute control: from book sales to age discimination.

Epiphany 2. I've roamed the world, often solo, and always found my way. I've moved from coast to coast 7 times--almost always with no job or apartment lined up.  I've navigated emotional, physical and financial challenges. And yet a Little Freaking Beastie knew that the right way to bring me down was not with something huge...but something insultingly tiny.

I'd reached the point that you all know:

I began to act decisively, shifting into analytical mode:
1) Amazon's not insane. But it's capable of being unclear. Possibly I was reading their directive too literally: 800 5th Ave was clear. But should I really be looking for 5th Ave GARAGE?
2) I would not wuss out by calling a cab and paying somebody to help me.
3) I would--and did--succeed in finding a building obscurely numbered 800. It was a Bank of America, apparently nestled in a superstructure.
4) No GARAGE in sight at this 800 5th Ave. But wait...If B of A owned the entire superstructure--and, say, it spanned an entire block...then the number 800 would refer to the entire block, all sides. 
5) Sooooo...800 5th Ave would refer to all sides of the building. And 800 5th Ave GARAGE wasn't the name of the parking lot but was, possibly, a garage servicing the whole city-block address.
6) In a 10-15 minute walk I could cover the other three sides of the block. I began on the south side and--

Voila. I spied the entrance to an underground garage and in thirty paces I saw the Amazon lockers.
I couldn't have been happier if I'd chanced on El Dorado.

Amazon Locker

What joy! I felt as proud and blissed-out as the day I first set foot in San Francisco after nearly 4 days on a bus, with $300 in my pocket, no job and nowhere to live. I went home with my party comfort food...set everything up lovingly...and sat down to savor a classic film that would be worth my bout with the Little Freaking Beastie.

Welllll...The food was fine. But the film that might have landed me in the emergency ward? It sucked. Assante was superb but the film was a mess. A bitchness of embarassments,

The moral of the story? I won't allow myself to forget the fool with the quarter or the other fool with his DVD. I'll set my sights on things that count, knowing and accepting that I can't control the outcomes....but that I can better my chances if I keep Little Freaking Beasties from dividing my focus and spirit.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why Branding is a Lovely Word: Part One

Branding is seen in some quarters as a creative sin: the creation of soulless concoctions by bankers with button-down brains. It's often that and even worse--if the branding precedes the creation. That is: when money only-minded fools set out to create their sure things. Which is like hitting the dance floor with your ass where your heart ought to be.

Nothing good will ever come from force-birthing a novel or film from tried and proven strategies based on purely commercial intents. Another way of saying this: if the branding precedes the birth, it may make money...but at a great cost.

Then again, if even the greatest of novels or films are launched with poor branding--or worse, none at all--most of them are doomed to fail.  Or to wait for Lady Luck to goose them decades later.

Fearful of poor public reception, studio heads locked up a great film for three decades rather than contrive a way to market it to win:

Branding took on special importance for me when I began to wonder why my Boss MacTavin mysteries weren't selling. I'd published three on Amazon and they'd won, mostly, rave reviews. Don't ask me why it took so long, but finally I realized: readers really had no chance to get any feel for the series. Take a look at my three covers and I think you'll see what I mean.

The books themselves had scored high points for Originality. And there's nothing else out there quite like my main character. But let's get back to the first illustration above:
1) The covers lacked consistency. The visual tone was all over the map. Are these wild and woolly thrillers? Are they dark and Chandleresque? Or are they 50 Shades of Gross?
2) The inconsistency created its own invisibility. If the covers have nothing in common, then they can't be seen as a series. And mystery readers are well-known to want the 'meat' they crave repeated with slight changes in sauces or spices.
3) Though the first cover was wildly different, the other two were disappointingly conventional, And neither 2 nor 3 suggested an original talent at play.

Three months ago I approached my new cover designer, Jean Schweikhard, and asked if she'd be interested in creating a series template. Wanted: a look that turned heads and showed, at one glance, the real soul of the series. Within the template, we could change from book to book one image.

We began to swap ideas in July. Three months later I received the first 'roughs' of Jean's work.

I'll share the covers when they've been tweaked to perfection. For now I report with burning conviction: there is nothing noble about sinking with no sound. And there is nothing cool or admirable about ineffectively marketing one's work.

Readers are busy and they are bombarded with pitches and Tweets from those with more chutzpah than talent.

Chutzpah cartoons, Chutzpah cartoon, funny, Chutzpah picture, Chutzpah pictures, Chutzpah image, Chutzpah images, Chutzpah illustration, Chutzpah illustrations

So: work with all the talent and force that's within you. Then, bubbas, if you love your work: by God, learn how to brand it!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Great Canadian Thrilller

Nearly forty years ago the best damned thriller that you've never seen came to us from Canada:

The Silent Partner

An online review sums it nicely without serving up any spoilers:

Anders Bodelson's Danish novel "Think of a Number" has been transplanted to Toronto, intelligently updated by screenwriter Curtis Hanson, and directed by Daryl Duke in brilliant fashion. What makes this film so special, I think, is that you wind up rooting for Elliott Gould, a bank teller turned thief, to best Christopher Plummer, a sadistic bank robber, even though Gould's character is basically amoral. This is that rare thriller that works on every level. The plotting feels free of contrivance, Gould and Plummer have never been better, chilly Toronto looks spectacular, and there's a wonderfully evocative, jazzy soundtrack by pianist Oscar Peterson.

Coming as it did out of Canada in 1978, this film, despite its high quality, was almost immediately forgotten, but it is surely deserving of rediscovery. 

A few key points of interest:
--The casting is perfect, with wonderful performances from Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer and Susannah York. John Candy turns in a memorable near-first performance. And a young Quebec beauty named Celine Lomez is so effortlessly sexy you'll wonder why she pretty much retired from film making after 1981.
--The ingenious, brainy, cat and mouse script is a star in its own right. And it was written by Curtis Hanson...who went on to write two not so little numbers known as LA Confidential and 8 Mile.
--Director Daryl Duke's career in TV and film spanned 30 years. And his accolades/awards included an Emmy, A National Society of Film Critics Special Award, a Canadian Film Award and official entry at the Cannes Film Festival. Though The Silent Partner was his biggest hit--as well as his best film--he chose never to work in this genre again.
--The Toronto setting is refreshing and unique. At a time when American film companies shot in Toronto and Vancouver for budgetary reasons, Americanizing the actors and sets, this stunning film announced, quietly proud: You are in Toronto...This is a Canadian bank...This is Canadian money...This is a Canadian wedding...This is a Toronto teller throwing thousands of dollars, unseen, into the lunchbox stowed under his drawer...


1) In decades of studying thrillers, I've never seen a game of cat and mouse played out as well as this one. A clever and serious writer based his whole narrative game plan on carefully drawn characters, whom he fully understood. The logic at work is thrilling and relentless. And this film will be the just reward for any viewer who's grown sick of quickly drafted, crappy flicks that simply make no sense at all. If Gould's character Miles loves fish in this film, that is so for some very good reasons. If Gould's apartment is shown in a menacing light but nothing immediately happens...sit back and relax, friends, because something will.
2) The Toronto setting works--and yet it may have cost the film in terms of box office dollars. Not because viewers would have minded but because distributors feared that they would mind. Oh dear, a Canadian movie...Toronto doesn't resonate with crowds the same way that New York does. Let's put an end to this nonsense right now. The Toronto setting does work here precisely because it is different...familiar enough yet exotic as well. Not just exotic--surprising. A narrative jack-in-the box. You don't expect the carnage to come in a setting this quiet and lovely.


Nearly forty years after this movie's release, the time has come for Canadians to take a stand against Hollywood greed. Let us film in your cities--only as long as what we show are your cities. Don't allow us any longer to save dough by pretending you're us and not you. If we're not willing to abide, then say it loud and say it proud:

                  BUZZ OFF, YOU EVIL BASTARDS!