Wednesday, September 25, 2013

12th Man For Death – The Reality Show

Today is the last day of the America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay. Who would have thought it would become something so dramatic and nail-biting (hyperbole intended)? Down seven races Larry Ellison’s Oracle team has surged over the last week to tie the Kiwis and with a great race today, retain the cup. Amazing! Almost two years ago I thought that it would be fun to pull together a story that uses the America’s Cup as the background to an international thriller with our girl, Sharon O’Mara, taking the lead and bringing the bad guys down. And with style and in a sexy green gown.

This the race has not been without controversy and criticism,especially here in the Bay Area. From the expectations and money spent by the City of San Francisco as it tried to be a willing partner three years ago while it came to grips with the Recession and the overt arm twisting by the race organizers, most Bay Area residents were expecting a dud of a race. Much can be written about the politics and the on-shore activities – but the races themselves are thrilling and now without peer in the world of high-tech sailboats. This is also the longest competition in the race’s storied history of more than 150 years.

My idea for 12th Man For Death was to expand the race into a story of international espionage and intrigue with a layman’s (and non-sailor’s) view of the race’s history and worldwide interest while combining it with some very cool stuff in Venice and the Bay Area.

Call it:

And the guys loved them too. 

Here’s the book trailer:

Here’s the blurb:

Sharon O’Mara is hired for a simple job; find out who killed the great America’s Cup skipper and technical genius, Catherine Voss. Was it out of envy and greed? Or was it an international scheme to steal her high-tech boat? Catherine’s twin brother wants answers.
As the ultra-rich battle for the America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay and the canals of Venice, Sharon must fight to find the truth. But who would kill for the secrets hidden in the technological heart of the lightning fast hydrofoil? Will Sharon discover who is behind this before they kill her? Can she outwit the bad guys and stop World War III?

Here’s the review by Midwest Book Review (on the whole series):

The Chronicles of Sharon O'Mara is an exciting, action-packed series of danger and intrigue featuring the tough yet sexy Sharon O'Mara, a thirtysomething (hey, who's counting?) ex-Army cop who can't overlook the injustice of a cold-blooded murder. In "Land Swap for Death" (9780982837610, $15.00) Sharon resists the soul-sucking greed of the insurance company she works for to uncover just why a man had to die in a parking lot, leaving behind a tangled real estate debacle.  In "Containers for Death" (9780982837634, $14.99) Sharon investigates the Chinese Tongs and Mexican Cartels engaged in a merciless smuggling operation involving steel containers floated across the ocean.  In the Global eBook Awards finalist "Toulouse for Death" (9780982837696, $14.99), Sharon's mission to return a priceless stolen painting to its rightful owners embroils her in a winner-take-all battle against a lingering Nazi SS who will stop at nothing to begin a "New Reich"; and in "12th Man for Death" (9780965651059, $14.99), Sharon's murder investigation of a skilled American Cup skipper and technical genius uncover a sinister plot to trigger World War III! In addition to their softcover print editions, all four exciting suspense stories are available as inexpensive ebooks. The Chronicles of Sharon O'Mara is a "must-read" for anyone who enjoys high-octane mystery-thrillers, highly recommended!
Michael J. Carson for Midwest Book Review

All are available in paperback and ebook formats by clicking on the icons left and right.

You will have a ball.

More Later . . . . . . .

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Greatest Character You Have Never Met

I was at dinner the other night and a friend wanted to know what happened to Sharon. Why hadn’t they seen a new book? Did they miss the release? What’s up? For a moment I enjoyed the left handed accolade, but then reality set in. Since the release of 12th Man For Death nine long months ago my fans seem to be getting restless. When is the next Sharon O’Mara thriller coming out is all I hear?

I don’t know was all I could say. I’ve gotten a good start, maybe a third done, and while the overall outline is ensconced in my head, I am reminded by the CFO, that that’s the worst place it should be. But I am also reflecting on the difficulty of writing book series and sequels. There are numerous characters out there under the management of some great writers: Jack Reacher, Gabriel Alon, Hieronymus Bosch, Maisie Dobbs, Walt Longmire, the list is long. These writers deal with all the same problems; deadlines, readership, publishers, expectations, standards (imposed and demanded), and most importantly – the character’s growth and sadly, like us mortals, aging.

One of my favorite writers of the action thriller was John D. MacDonald. I came to his work late, in the mid-1980s, not knowing that soon his work would be done, he died in 1986. He left the genre a wonderful character named Travis McGee; begun in 1964, the 21 books carried us through twenty years of McGee’s adventures. In fact to this day Sharon considers Travis McGee to be her mentor. McGee ages during these twenty years, changes, becomes more cynical, more lonely, and more heroic. Here is what Wikipedia says about Travis McGee.
MacDonald's protagonists were often intelligent and introspective men, sometimes with a hard cynical streak. Travis McGee, the "salvage consultant" and "knight-errant," was all of that. McGee made his living by recovering the loot from thefts and swindles, keeping half to finance his "retirement," which he took in pieces as he went along. He first appeared in the 1964 novel The Deep Blue Good-by and was last seen in The Lonely Silver Rain in 1985. All titles in the 21-volume series include a color, a mnemonic device which was suggested by his publisher so that when harried travelers looked to buy a book they could at once see those MacDonald titles they had not read.
The McGee novels feature an ever-changing array of female companions, some particularly nasty villains, exotic locales in Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and appearances by a sidekick known only as "Meyer," an economist of international renown and a Ph.D. As Sherlock Holmes had his well-known address on Baker Street, McGee had his trademark lodgings on his 52-foot houseboat, the Busted Flush, named for the poker hand that started the run of luck in which he won her. She is docked at Slip F-18, Bahia Mar marina, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We could do no better than this delightful series. So to my loyal readers, be patient, Sharon is very busy, she’s somewhere in the Caribbean as I write this, locked in a titanic battle with greedy totalitarian forces in an effort to complete a contract she has with the greatest Cuban baseball player of all time. San Francisco, London, Amsterdam and Havana all add flavor to the sauciness of our Sharon O’Mara. 

Today may be the last day of the competition for the America’s Cup in San Francisco Bay. 12th Man For Death gives you the alternative version of this great sailing completion from the stand point of our girl. I suggest you start there and work back to Land Swap For Death. Enjoy

BTW – Click any of the book covers and you will be taken instantly to Amazon where your copy is waiting.

More Later . . . . . .

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Do You Outline?

At writer’s conferences and workshops this is a topic that always comes up. Amateurs and pros alike are not of one mind when it comes to this archaic and confusing process. Admitting that you outline is akin to confessing some abnormal aspect of your love life. “Yes I outline, Doesn’t everyone?” or “No, wouldn’t think of it, it’s not natural, I want to be as free as I can with my story.”
Outline of a Past Novel

Phooey. Regardless as to whether John Gresham outlines (he confesses he does and with great detail) and why didn’t Elmore Leonard didn’t (or at least admit to) remain as issues for discussion over tall ice filled glasses and rich Cabernet. Some of us who can’t keep two thoughts together use an outline to bring us back to the story. Others don’t want to know what happens, their writing is like a detective story, “I’ll learn the answer when the character finds out.” It is often like swinging on a trapeze without a net.

Me, I go either way. I am in the midst of a three book World War II project. The first book is in editing, the second is in construction, and the third in development (all kind of architectural isn’t it). But for historical pieces it is critical to make sure your characters are walking the same road as the world around them. You can’t, like John Belushi, believe it was the Germans who bombed Pearl Harbor (See Clip at the end – beware, you sensitive types, of extremely foul language). My outline structure starts out in a CADD format (computer aided design) that I have left over from some professional urban design work I do in the real world. This allows me to set up parallel tracks for my characters, places, and real events. These are on a month to month timeline running the length of the series from, in this case, 1937 to 1952. By the way when I print it out it is 3 feet by 6 feet, I am a visual guy.

Then as the story develops I can post character and story interactions with real events and places. It keeps me honest and surprisingly adds significant color and flavor to the story as it/they unfolds. What happened in Rome on June 5th that was overshadowed the next day by D-Day June 6th, 1944? It’s critical to my story. When were the Nuremberg Trials? When was Israel’s independence declared and by whom? All critical, my story cannot proceed in a fake self-created historical vacuum.

This structure can be daunting but it is critical to the successful flow of the story. But also remember that nothing is set in stone yet, as something changes, you can/will adjust the outline. A new character wanders in and steals the show, write him in. The outline allows you to start with the broad timeframe of the story then insert vignettes and scenes. I’ll often post with a bold horizontal line important internal timelines such as pregnancies (usually nine months like them or not), birthdays, durations of visits, ocean voyages, etc.

But for my thrillers and mysteries I take another tack. Usually these are set within a specific time frame of hours, days, and weeks. I imagine, since Mr. Dan Brown’s books all occur within 24 hours, his outlines are set up on a minute by minute day-timer schedule and woe to any lost second. My current detective thriller takes 27 days in May, events are critical, days are picked and the time between filled. I actually used an Excel spreadsheet for that one (and it is a bit of a historic piece so certain events are real).

I have also enjoyed the unlimited and unfettered freedom of no outline. And while the stories came out well, there were times when even I was confused and had to resort to rechecking my story’s facts. One can’t have the main character leave before he arrives now can we?

So it’s up to you dear reader, outline or not. Rough outline or detailed, your choice. Stick to it or take the road less traveled, all on you. But a word of caution, unless you intend on publishing your outline in all its glory it’s always a good idea not to show it to anyone lest they offer unnecessary criticism and confusion. By the way when did World War II start? Its 74th anniversary was just last Sunday.

More Later . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Flash From The Past

Ahhhh, Gotcha

As a blogger who tries valiantly to post at least once a week on this bog and relatively often on three others, some days you just run into a wall. Today is such a day. Where to turn? Well I have written 150 previous posts on writing and the independent publishing world, so let’s just flip the switch on the old Way-Back Machine and see what pithy things I wrote long, long ago.

From February 2012

Battle of the Indies – There is No Winner, Yet
Currently there is a quiet (as well as not so quiet) war going on between independents. No, not unaligned politicians, but between and among writers, publishers, and booksellers. Each is fiercely waving their banners over the smoldering pile of the old-line bookstores and publishers. I fully realize that the Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, and the other big houses won’t go away, but their power has been significantly diminished and in some genres, destroyed. The gaggle of editors and agents that feed their furnaces are also reacting with predictable actions and threats, “I’ll tell you, if you publish independently, you’ll never work in this town again.” Kind of silly if you ask me

What is more of a concern are the independent bookstores (Indies) that are turning a cold shoulder toward independent publishers (also called Indies). While they profess to be independent and are fighting off the remains of the national bookstore chains (where is Crown, Borders, et al?) to survive they seem to continually put up barriers to small publishers and independent writers. I hear “Your books aren’t up to our requirements for professional quality.” “You can’t supply my needs, sign up with Ingram or some other distributor.” “Don’t bother me, I want to go out of business on my own terms, I keep a low inventory.” “Okay, but you have to do it on commission.”

In an article in the current issue of Alive, a very well done local magazine here in the East Bay of Northern California, Anita Venezia (friend and author of a wonderful novel set in Italy) offers her thoughts on the mess were in (GO HERE). We writers are all trying to find a voice and to be heard over the sturm and drang of the publishing world. Sure we all want Da Vinci Code numbers, Nora Roberts reads, and even the ridiculous advances someone like Bill Clinton gets. But to be turned down by your local bookstore, the one you supported for twenty years; is a serious kick in the butt. Good God man, didn’t you watch You’ve Got Mail, didn’t you understand the premise? I’m here to help you, not just to annoy you.

There are many independent associations of writers and bookstores throughout the US. Each region has its small chain of well-run local bookstores that offer not only well stocked shelves but book signings, speakers, and even some even battle with Starbucks and Peets with coffee and pastries. In the parlance of urban planners they become “Third Places,” where citizens come together to relax, meet, and read. Of course the bottom line is commerce, sit a while, buy a book, and buy coffee. They claim to be Independents yet they seem to act like the big boys when it comes to independent writers and publishers. “Go away kid, you bother me!”

But there are changes in the wind, in fact in some quarters it’s a gale. Apple is trying very hard to recreate the school textbook market in their image through iBook (and you know, it might work!). Amazon is starting to get all “proprietary” with teases and new “opportunities,” see its KDP store. The number of ebooks being sold is climbing in a classic bell curve (but will they level off?). The number of eReaders (remember I claim to be the inventor – GO HERE – for proof), is growing. Kindles, iPads, iPadMini, Nooks, eReaders, and on and on, pick your poison. If there is one sure thing, it’s that this thing ain’t over.

The opportunities for new models in marketing and selling ebooks is huge. Currently there are many ideas flying around but with little proof of success. I know there must be at least one that works across so many platforms (if you have an idea – post below in comments, let the world know!).
We writers toil in the dark of early mornings and stolen hours from friends and family. We are certifiable and many of us should be committed. But we love to tell our stories (even the ones about mind reading zombies from Des Moines who own Prius dealerships so they can steal your credit card numbers), it’s just what we do. 

More later . . . . .