Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is it feeling drafty in here or is it just me?

Yes, if I used a bad pun for a post title you know it is 1:00 am and I am giddy with the thrill of hitting save on a completed first draft of a new novel.
I certainly think I like this one but it's back to top to revise and evaluate, maybe add a few thousand words to fill in gaps I left.
In the next few days I am going to do what I did with Needle and do a "Novel in a minute" by posting the first line from each chapter. I'm just curious how it will read. Will it reveal any actual plot? Will it seem like a crazy merry-go-round? (entirely possible with this one)
Stay tuned.
In the meantime, enjoy this photo from last weekend's LA TImes Festival of Books of me sandwiched (thanks Keith) between Reed Farrel Coleman and Duane Swierczynski with a side serving of Gar Anthony Haywood. Proof I was there.
Photo credit goes to Lazy Thoughts From A Boomer blog. Thank you! Check out the great wrap up of FOB fun there and at Jen's Book Thoughts blog. And more from the Pop Culture Nerd.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The final turn

I passed the 50,000 word mark tonight on one of two Works in Progress. Almost there. Barreling down the straight toward a thrilling (and bloody) conclusion.
A bit premature for this photo. I'm not the guy breaking the tape, more like the guy in the outer lane who's not gonna win but is going to finish dammit and get a lovely 'Participant' ribbon.

Also got a new chapter from Jennifer for our sequel and it KICKS ASS. Damn, that book has taken some dark turns and I love it. Anyone who still says women can't write noir (and thankfully I think that number is dwindling) needs to read this. Of course, start with One Too Many Blows To The Head and then hold your breath until this next bad boy is out. Okay, don't do that 'cause it's gonna be a while...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Needling a new friend

There has been a call to get photos of people reading the new Needle magazine. At my recent signing at the LA Times festival of books I had the pleasure of sitting next to and chatting with Duane Swierczynski, a writer who I love and it turns out is a hell of a nice guy.
I tried not to hassle the other writers with taking pictures with me since everyone was busy and the place was crowded and really, I felt kind of awkward asking for a fanboy snapshot. BUT...when it came to getting a shot with the old Needle? Hell yes I embarrassed myself and asked Duane to pose. Here he is, um, enjoying it?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yikes, I'm a dork

So I went to the pre-festival party the night before the LA Times festival of books at the Mystery Bookstore. I am not a party guy. Never have been. Just not my scene. I don't know if it's the crowds or the pressure to meet new people but I am just not that good at it. This was a great low-key hang out with friends affair though. Really nice even though I still feel a little like a party crasher at these things.
I really enjoyed seeing people I'd seen/met at Left Coast Crime like Kelli Stanley, Steven Jay Schwartz (picked up his book finally so I could have him sign it) Sophie Littlefield, Brett Battles and some other writers I'd met before like Reed Farell Coleman and Christa Faust. I met some great new people like Jeri Westerson, Naomi Hirahara, Duane Swierczynski and Alafair Burke (is it wrong to say she is stunningly beautiful in person?)
But do I hang out and act cool and make an impression? Not really. I'm not painfully awkward, just a little. I never know what to say and I go into a conversation with someone assuming they'd rather be talking to someone else so I try to keep it short and my fear is I end up coming off as rude because I cut things off. Really I think that is just the way party conversation goes so I should just freakin' relax but I can't help it.
I think I made a big famous author uncomfortable when I talked to him (my wife confirmed this assumption). I answered a polite question from another author with a too-long too-detailed answer that I got into and couldn't get out of. I really wanted to meet Jen Forbus of Jen's book thoughts blog but then it all went awry when she got pulled into a conversation right away and I got pulled the other way. At least I got to say hello.
I need to work on it. I will work on it. I think I fake it pretty well but inside I'm a wreck. This is why I do the things I do. Writing is solitary. I even figured out a way to make collaborative writing solitary by never meeting my co-writer. Film editing is solitary.
Anyway, I had a good time. I love the fact that I get to mingle as a somewhat equal. Our book was right there on the table with all the bigs. I believe in the book so I'm not embarrassed about that part of it. Just the, y'know, me part.
I get a second chance on Sunday during my signing. I'm really excited to pick up some more books by my fellow panelists and get them signed. *sigh* Loser.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Heroic challenge

Chad Rohrbacher posted a challenge not too long ago and far be it for me to turn down a challenge. Below is my entry. There are even prizes but I don't care much about that. He is giving away some Victor Gischler stuff which is a great prize but I already have The Deputy and the comic stuff I don't care about, but then that was the challenge. Write a crime story with some superhero element to it. This puts me distinctly out of my comfort zone so I ran with it. Of course, I just cannot go to the costumes, super powers and evil villains so my take on it is a little different (I hope). I certainly look forward to what everyone else comes up with. It won't win and I know that but I enjoyed writing it. Who knows? Maybe I'll start to like super hero stories.

The Avenger
by Eric Beetner
You’d think the first thing I would have noticed was the razor and all the blood, but it was the tights. At first I thought they were red but that was just the gore. He must have hit an artery or something. I saw they were really green when he turned and started pacing.
A guy who committed murder is part of my job, sure, but a grown man in tights is not a regular thing. Even after five years in homicide I was seeing something new nearly every day. 
I’d been called in after the body was found but then when I arrived I found out that the killer, y’know the dude in the tights, was still in the house. The beat cops who first came on the scene hadn’t done their due diligence in sweeping the place. Imagine my surprise when he stepped out of what he called his “secret lair” but was really just an old coal closet in the basement of the hundred-year-old house.
The mask wasn’t even real, just drawn on in coal soot around his eyes giving him a decidedly raccoon look.
With everyone else upstairs it was just me and him down in that basement. Tony, the M.E., was already loading the body into the meat wagon and the guys who answered the 911 call were already filling out paperwork. I was just doing my job and looking around for clues. Found one!
Upstairs, looking at the body in the kitchen, all four of us gathered on the sidelines beside a lake of blood. I stayed far away, keeping my shoes clean. A trail of imprints led to and from the body where Tony had done his paid duty and examined the corpse. He said, “A large knife or razor. Maybe a box cutter. Safe to say the cause of death is loss of blood.”
Safe to say. I could have painted my deck with all that red. I wonder if the wife would stop busting my balls over it if I used the blood of a teenage boy.
He paced like a lion in a zoo. I could have just shot him. He had a weapon in his hand after all. But those tights...I just had to know.
“Are you Donald?” I asked him.
He looked up, his face curled into a question mark. “I’m The Avenger.”
The beat cops had given me the run down when I arrived on scene. The house was in the name of one Donald Gilbrand, age 45. He worked I.T. for a big cable subscriber. A widower with one child, also dead as of one year ago. I could wait for Tony to I.D. the body upstairs and tell me the connection but I figured why not ask the source.
“So, why did you kill him?”
“I’m the Avenger.”
“Yeah, I got that. But why did he need avenging?”
He stopped pacing. He lifted his head to me and spoke as if he was reciting the pledge of allegiance, all high and mighty like.
“Wherever there is justice gone unpunished, The Avenger is there. Wherever a criminal is free, The Avenger is there. The sentence has been delivered, I am merely the messenger.”
He started pacing again. As he walked he let the razor tap against his leg. My eyes had adjusted to the dark in the basement so I could see now that he was deepening a wound on his thigh as he slid the razor back and forth across it. Turned out not all of the blood on those tights was from the kid upstairs. 
“Donald, why don’t you drop the razor and come with me.”
“To the hall of justice?”
“Yeah. The hall of justice. Sure.”
“They failed me!” 
His sudden burst of anger made my hand flinch down to the weapon on my belt. His eyes went wide and the whites stood out against his dark smear of a mask. Sweat and blood ran the coal dust down in streaks like black nails across his cheeks and onto his neck. For a superhero mask design it actually worked on him. Made him look kind of bad-ass. 
“Who failed you, Donald?”
He lifted the razor, threatening. My hand stayed put on the butt of my gun. Our eyes locked and a glimmer of the real Donald showed through.
“He killed them. And he got away with it.”
God dammit. My job is hard enough without some freaked out Dad getting all vigilante because I couldn’t nail some jerk with a smart lawyer. All I can do is put them in the courtroom. From there it all goes to shit. I didn’t doubt I’d do the same thing if someone killed my wife and kid. I’d skip the tights though.
“You know he killed them?”
“He did. He knew what he did.”
“This is your wife and daughter we’re talking about?”
Fresh tears cut white lines in his coal mask.
I looked to the stairs, wondering when someone was going to come check on me or if they would just pack it in and drive away, leaving me like that kid in the movie. I didn’t even hear feet shuffling above me anymore.
“Donald, I need you to put the razor down and come with me.”
“He was drunk.”
“Kyle. He was drunk. He drove Lillie into a tree. He walked away with all of five stitches.” The basement faded away. The kerosene smell, the damp in the air. We were two Dads sipping a Vodka tonic and sharing the worst days of our lives with each other. “Kelly, my wife, couldn’t handle it. She hung...” he choked on tears. “She hung herself.”
That was the point when I would tell the guy on the ledge all about my similar experience. Explain how we’re all filled with regret and tragedy but we soldier on because that’s what men do. I drew a blank though. I had nothing for him. Nothing to rival the feeling of bloody revenge.
“I understand,” was all I could muster.
Donald looked at me and his shoulders slumped with severe disappointment. He wiped the back of his razor hand across his face and streaked the coal making his face a blur like he was in motion.
“The Avenger will now return to his secret lair.”
He turned and walked, stoop-shouldered, back to the tiny coal closet in the corner. He looked anything but heroic. He was a middle aged schlub beaten down by life. I did understand him. More than he knew.
“Donald,” I said. He stopped, back to me. “I have to take you in.”
“For justice?” he said.
He turned to me. I knew he was filled with questions I had no answers for. Thankfully he didn’t ask them.
He lifted the razor to his throat. Our eyes were locked together like soldiers on opposing sides, away from the gaze of generals and stripped of our uniforms. Just two men. I lifted my hand off the gun and let both arms drop to my sides. I didn’t tell him to stop, didn’t scream no.
He dragged slow and steady across the great divide of his neck. If I hadn’t already seen it upstairs I’d have been shocked how much blood could pour out of a human.
His arm reached as far out as it could go, his elbow back behind him. He hovered for a moment, his neck a fountain of red. Then he slumped and fell face first onto the concrete.
The iron blood smell cut through the chemical basement odor and gave the moist air a warmth like a summer night.
“Ron? You coming or what?” Tony called from the top of the stairs. A guy just doing his job, just wanting to get back to the station and clock out.
I was all about giving people what they wanted.
“Be right there,” I said.

My weekend plans

Where will I be? The LA Times Festival of Books, that's where. I'll be hanging out by the Mystery Bookstore Booth (#411) where I'll be signing from noon to 1:00 pm on Sunday.
The lineup of authors is truly amazing and I am honored to share the booth with Duane Swierczynski, Reed Farell Coleman, Attica Locke, Gar Anthony Haywood and Gary Phillips. So many other writers to see and get signed books from.
The fun starts tonight at the pre-festival party at the Mystery Bookstore. Should be a blast with tons of authors milling around. I'm be glad to see many of the friends I made at Left Coast Crime this year like Kelli Stanley, Steven Jay Schwartz, Christa Faust and many authors I am going to get signed editions from.
Really excited for this weekend.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The fun part

Here's what I love about the actual process of writing. I am not a very detailed outliner. I need to know where I'm going but I leave the details for when I get there. But I love it when an outline item as vaguely detailed as "Emma ditches the cash nearby and walks home." turns out to be some of my favorite 2600 words in the new book. It's just fun to see where it goes once you start from the place I already have in mind and just put word in front of the other.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Needle in a minute

I had the idea of putting up the first line of each chapter of the new novel as a quick sample/teaser and I thought a great test of the idea would be the new Needle magazine that I just got.
If you don't have yours yet, take a look at the first line (or a tiny bit more if the first period doesn't do it justice) of each story in Needle. I think you'll agree the little minx teases in just the right way.
So here it is - Needle in a minute:

"So you're saying my daughter is a whore"
Kieran Shea's The Shrewd Variant

Felix couldn't say for sure how long he'd been walking.
Kent Gowran's .44 Blues

Six seconds to impact.
my story Countdown

Oscar looked exactly as he had the last time I'd seen him, except for the chunk missing from the back of his skull.
Hilary Davidson's The Black Widow Club

All the Kings horses and all the King's men, couldn't put me back together again.
Cormac Brown's Santa Barbara and the Killing's Easy

Dear God in heaven, I know I promised not to bother you again, but if you get me through this one, then I promise to keep my big trap shut from now on.
Nathan singer's On Pike Street

He had to kick out the back window to escape.
Char Rohrbacher's Another Quiet Night

The Mesa police department was the first to pull me over.
Keith Rawson's Three Cops

And I won't pretend that job description didn't cause me grief.
Patti Abbot's I am Madam X's Bodyguard

Charlotte pretended to be absorbed in her magazine.
Dave Zeltserman's 'Til Death Do You Part

"It's friggin' obvious," says Kenny. Kenny Ratface is waving his arms around like a windmill.
Paul D. Brazill's The Sharpest Tool in the Box

The puke-green room felt like a jail cell with the door swinging shut.
Sandra Seamans' Big Girls Don't Cry

She was the biggest name in entertainment.
Christopher Grant's Superdead

They spent the afternoon like every other afternoon. They did a lot of pacing.
Eric Nusbaum's Win-Win Situation

Right from the start, the papers made such a big deal of it, the whole thing was really blown way out of proportion.
Jedidiah Ayres' The Whole Buffalo

Curious aren't you? Kind of like peering into the neighbor's window and seeing handcuffs and whipped cream. You want to know more. Well step up and order your copy of Needle. They even sent out a free shipping code to use when you checkout so enter LULUMAIL305 and you get Needle even cheaper!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Word count

37,000 on one and over 30,000 on the other. It is weird writing two books at once. They are very different too. One is first person, the other is third. One is a period piece, the other contemporary. One is much more violent and action oriented.
Once these are done I will have the material to make a real push for the fabled "next step". An agent? Selling a solo book? I've even seen a lot of evidence that doing a self publish to Kindle and keeping it at a low price, .99 or $1.99, can be a workable model. Every situation is different I guess.
My short stories are suffering. Oh well. Casualty of the bigger goal.
Then, I am really excited and really frustrated. Excited for the upcoming LA Times Festival of books. In truth I'm really excited for the pre-festival party next Friday night where I can schmooze a ton of other writers, see some friends and get some signed books.
I'm frustrated with the lack of response I've gotten from some indie booksellers. Jennifer and I are solely in charge of PR and promo of One Too Many Blows To The Head and I've been trying to set up signings at several mystery specific bookstores that I'd be willing to travel to but I just can't get anyone to respond to my reaching out. I've sent books so they can see it is a real deal published book but still it is radio silence. We didn't have the luxury of ARCs sent out months before release so we are rapidly becoming old news in the publishing time table. Still, any book you've never heard of is new to you, right?
Not sure what else I can do. I don't want to be annoying or harassing. All I want to do is help these stores sell books. It really makes me appreciate Linda and Bobby at the Mystery Bookstore. Nothing beats face time and I'm sure if I was close enough to do the drop-in like I can at TMB it would be very different.
Not like I'm a big draw, I know that. No one is storming the gates asking when I'm coming to sign but I just hate to let it die on the vine without giving it my all, y'know?
I certainly give any indie bookseller the benefit of the doubt. I know it is hard work, a lot to coordinate and a lot of us indie authors contacting them daily so I can't be too offended.
Oh well. Bloodied but unbowed I soldier on.
I leave you on a positive note after reading blogger/writer Holly O'Neill's (hope that leg feels better) recent post about opening lines. I really love the opener to the new solo work. I have been working to make the opener of each chapter a real juicy grabber. When it is finished I want to do a "Novel in a Minute" and post the first lines of each chapter as a little tease. In the meantime, here is the first line:

"Rain hit the roof of the van with the force of someone locked in a coffin, alive."

Now, as much as I love it I have revised it about a dozen times. There are so many ways to write this sentence. Do I need "alive"? Is it better to say "locked alive in a coffin"? Comma? No comma? This is back to the original and I'm sure it will change and change back many times yet. I'm so torn. there doesn't seem to be one definitive answer. This is very unlike me too. I am very decisive in my writing. I just want to get this exactly right. Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The debut issue of Needle magazine is officially out today! I am proud to have a flash fiction story included alongside such great storytellers as Dave Zelsterman, Hilary Davidson, Keith Rawson, Patti Abbott, Paul D. Brazill, Kieran Shea, Jed Ayres, Christopher Grant and more! It is 165 pages (!) of pure noir goodness and Steve, as promised, kept the price low at just $7! So go order up your copy today.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I'm Notable

I was very excited to find that I have been selected as a "Notable Story of 2009" in storySouth Million Writer's Award. It is for my story Ditch which is really gratifying since it is one of my favorites and one that is different. Will I make the top ten? They announce that on May 1 and from there it goes to a readers vote. There are a ton of stories on the Notable list but it is nice to be included since there are thousands on the web.
Fingers crossed.