Thursday, November 18, 2010

We made the top ten...well, six.

I love it when I randomly trip over someone talking about the book. Well, I guess having a Google alert for the title of our book isn't exactly tripping over, but still.
Graham Bowlin, up and coming writer and newest employee of The Mystery Bookstore, came out with a list of his top six reads of 2010 over on his blog. Somehow One Too Many Blows To The Head made it on there right next to The Cold Kiss, Pike and a few other great books. We'll take it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

La Ronde

Several weeks ago Patti Abbott threw out a 1000-word challenge, as she likes to do. This time it was to have several authors pass a baton between us using the theme of jealousy and the little trick that the person who was the object of envy in one story became the envious one in the next story. The results of the first six rounds are here. A daunting task to be sure. My story is a bit of a reboot on what came before but I couldn't help run with the story once it came to me. I feel like I write about brothers an awful lot without having one (3 sisters. They don't get treated much better in my fiction)
Please enjoy and let's all look forward to what Nigel Bird comes up with next in the rotation. Without further ado - La Ronde, part 7:

by Eric Beetner
Gregory Rubinstein liked to tease his brother Adam. Greg reveled in pointing out that he was the true first born son. Greg beat Adam out by sixteen minutes but it seemed to be enough of a margin to give Greg the ammunition for years of torture. 
By ten years old the dynamic had been established. Greg – the golden boy. Destined to follow in father’s footsteps through law school to district attorney, state office, maybe senate. Adam – the also ran. Forever chasing his brother’s tail. He’d make a damn fine prosecutor. Maybe even run Greg’s campaigns. Respectable, anonymous work.
Despite the house being a five bedroom gothic-style manor, Greg and Adam still shared a room. Even the bunk beds gave away the hierarchy in their way. Greg, one would assume, would be perched high in the top bunk but instead Greg chose the lower bed. In addition to his dislike of heights it let him come and go as he pleased at night, which he did quite often, being a fitful sleeper prone to minor bouts of sleepwalking. To keep Greg from banging his shins on the ladder to the top, once Adam assumed his perch, Greg kicked the ladder away, trapping his younger twin in the Siberia of the top bunk. If Adam forgot to pee at night he risked a broken ankle on the jump down and a pitch-black mountain climb on the way back up. Bladder-busting discomfort was often the best option, until he learned ways to dismount silently using body contortions Spiderman would have been envious of. 
At their riding lessons Greg was the first to canter, the first to make his horse jump, the first to bring home a trophy. When Adam brought one home the very next weekend it sat next to Greg’s like a shrunken, sickly twin. Shorter, the gold more dull, the name etched in a smaller font. Adam stared at the two on the shelf, the symbolism not lost on him. Two of essentially the same thing, only one a little lesser than.
At first Adam played out subtle games of revenge. He put a scratch in Greg’s Spin Doctors CD. He fed Greg’s horse, Blade Runner, a box of ExLax before a meet. At the first water jump the team left behind a trail and fouled the water so badly they were forced to delay the competition for an hour while they drained the pool, lest someone fall into it. 
Adam wished they’d been identical, not fraternal, twins so he could impersonate his brother and get him expelled from school. He compromised by writing notes to girls in Greg’s exact handwriting using words he’d lifted from the stash of Penthouse Forum columns they routinely looked at in Dad’s closet.
Despite Adam’s minor insurgency Greg seemed secure in his place. He called Adam nicknames like Dickface and Assmunch. He routinely told on Adam any time he did anything remotely against the rules and Adam seemed to suffer punishments more harsh and long lasting than Greg ever did. At the dinner table Greg sat at the right hand of Father, Adam a seat down, as forgotten and unnecessary as that extra fork that never got used. 
At night was the only time Adam felt in charge. The nightmares, the whimpering and bed-thrashing contortions Greg would go through, let Adam feel that the cruelty Greg regularly dished out was eating him away inside. When Greg would walk around the room in his sleep Adam enjoyed spooking him awake and then pretending to be asleep, eyes shut and stifling laughter as he heard Greg’s heavy breathing and confused panic when he awoke – out of bed in a dark, foreign-feeling room.
Adam started plotting ways to put to the test the old myth that if you wake a sleepwalker they might die. When Adam would be roused by Greg’s kicking over of a toy or stack of books, he would rise and shimmy down the side of the bed, place something hard and solid at shin level in Greg’s way and climb back to watch from his crow’s nest as Greg jolted himself awake with a cry of pain.
It was report card day that Adam forged his most brilliant plan.
Adam’s GPA: 3.4 Greg’s: 3.8
Ten years old and Mr. Rubinstein had given Adam up for a life of mediocrity. Back-slapping praise was lavished on Greg while a series of questions about Adam’s B-minus dominated the dinner conversation.
Alone in their room at night, Greg said out loud what Adam assumed everyone had been thinking.
“Just give it up, man. You might as well drop out and learn how to wash cars or something.”
The words weren’t irrational to Adam’s ten-year-old ego. 
That night he decided if Greg was so in love with himself, wouldn’t it be great if he scared himself shitless?
After Greg became locked in battle with his sleep demons, Adam descended the bunks. He took the full length mirror off the back of the door with the screwdriver he’d placed in his desk drawer after dinner. He leaned the narrow strip of glass against the lower bunk, right next to Greg’s face as he slept. Adam dismissed the consequences of his stunt. Seeing Greg frightened by his own reflection would be worth the punishment to come.
Adam climbed back to his perch. When he was settled and had stopped himself laughing he waited for Greg to begin a particularly fitful episode. He didn’t wait long.
When Greg let out a stifled cry Adam rocked the bunk and coughed loudly. Greg, on the verge of awake anyway, bolted up, saw his own reflection but had no idea who or what it was. Still half asleep, he screamed and lurched forward, pushing his face through the pane of glass and slicing a diagonal line from his scalp to his chin down over the bridge of his nose and across his wide-open left eye. 
Blood rushed to the wound, nearly obscuring Greg’s face by the time Adam peered over the edge of the top bunk. A flap of skin hung down across his forehead like an open envelope. The wide stare of Greg’s right eye struck a stark contrast with the blood-filled cavity of his left. The bottoms of his feet sliced open as he stumbled around the room, still thinking he was trapped in a dream.
The ensuing chaos let Adam do a quick re-staging of events. The story was Greg, in the throes of another of his sleepwalking incidents, ran headlong into the door, shattering the mirror, slicing his face and blinding his eye.
The next day, Adam got his own room. His father began to talk about plans for attending his alma matter. He filled Adam’s ears with stories he’d heard before, but always with Greg’s name in the starring role, not his own. Bold predictions of the future and Adam’s destiny to be a great man.
Greg began home schooling. His face took months to heal, even then it appeared always at risk of sliding apart into two distinct halves. His glass eye, at eight thousand dollars, never sat quite right so Greg preferred the eyepatch. 
Adam never played a joke on Greg again. He never felt the need. 
The lessons of that night stayed with him. His aggressive technique as a lawyer made the old man proud. At a cocktail reception for his first victory in court, Adam heard his father telling a colleague, “Yep, I knew as soon as he came out first, Adam would be a real go-getter. Came out a good fifteen minutes before his brother. We knew he was something special right then and there.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Caught reading

I'm very glad to be a part of amazing blogger Jen Forbus' Crime Writers Caught Reading project to recommend books for holiday gift giving. I cheated a bit and picked two books. Oops. My two suggestions: The Cold Kiss by John Rector and The Deputy by Victor Gischler.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So much, sort of

I feel like I'm not writing at all lately. Probably because I'm not putting down many words on the page but so much of writing is that intangible phase more commonly known as "thinking". I do a lot of thinking before I start something. I've done it for years, since I first started screenwriting. If I ventured into something only half-baked I never felt right about it and usually abandoned a project midway through. So I'm a thinker. I run a story over and over in my mind until I really know it.
I use it as a bit of a litmus test too. If I think of an idea and I don't write it down but the core of the plot is still with me several days later I know I'm on to something. Similarly, if a character sits inert in my notes or my brain I know not to keep chasing a blind lead. But when characters start to speak, to suggest themselves in my subconscious, I know I'm on to something that can sustain.
I'm in that phase right now. Doing yet another final read-through on Borrowed Trouble (I've said final before haven't I?) and plotting out what comes next. I have 5 books roughly outlined. Which one will insinuate itself into my brain the strongest and insist I write it? Remains to be seen but one trio of morally questionable men are in the lead right now.
I'm anxious to share the great blurbs we've gotten for Borrowed Trouble as well as the cover art I'm really excited about but I want to wait until there is a reason to shout. No point in blowing it now when we're still 3 months away from release. Killing me not to share though.
Oh, I'm on Twitter now @ericbeetner. So far I have not found it very addictive the way people do or the way I enjoy the community on Facebook but it has its merits. Come follow me if you like.
One thing I hope to initiate before the release of Borrowed Trouble is a push to get One Too Many Blows To The Head into the conversation again. I get antsy at the thought of people reading a sequel without reading the original. I need to get over it and we purposely wrote Borrowed Trouble so you wouldn't have to read One Too Many, but it would absolutely help. I feel that about any series, which remains the main reason I don't read many series. If I miss the beginning I don't want to be late to the party. Hell, I don't watch Mad Men because I missed season 1. I'll catch it someday on DVD but until then I can't jump on board late.
One series I did start at the top with is Steve Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series. I loved the concept of old west cowpunchers making like Sherlock and solving crimes in the 1800's but it just didn't sound like my kind of book. Too light. Too funny. After Hockensmith killed it on a panel at B-Con I couldn't resist getting a signed copy (even after I'd passed on the $4.98 deal Amazon ran a few months back) and I LOVED it. That is a series I look forward to continuing. Y'know, after I beat down my TBR pile a bit. But really Hockensmith's voice for Old Red and Big Red was so unique and so rich with language I couldn't resist.
Up next for me is my entry in Patti Abbott's La Ronde challenge. I just got my assignment story and I'm at work on my contribution to this whirlwind of a challenge.
Also, mine and Jennifer's chapter is up for the Rubicon Ranch project. We're chapter 3 so there's plenty of time to climb on and read along as 7 of us Second Wind authors post a chapter a week in this collective mystery. None of us know who the killer is yet. I am praying it is our pair. Check it out and see if you think they could have done it. A new chapter is up every Monday.
Discount Noir is still going strong in every ebook format out there, even some I didn't know about.
So, soon the new novel will begin. The other orphans are out seeking a home right now. Borrowed Trouble in the new year. La Ronde next week. It's a lot, sort of. I'll feel really good when a full-fledged novel is out in the world again.