September 16th, 2013
Back to work. Bentley is a tough editor.
This week, Summer 2013 officially ends. Everyone’s back to work full-steam. Me too.
I’m always sad to see August go. August is my favorite summer month. It’s slow and still. It seems not just okay to be lazy but appropriate. Funny to feel that way now because when I was growing up, August was the dull middle of our three-month L.A. city school summer vacation. My family didn’t do summer camp and family vacations were rare. By August, I was more than ready for school to start. Until then, I spent my days sweating in our un-airconditioned Northeast L.A. home, doing crafts, hanging out with friends, swimming at the public pool, and escaping to the air-conditioned public library. And I read. A lot.
Certain summers are branded in my memory by the books I read.
As a preteen, I inhaled tales of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden (I liked Trixie a little more than Nancy). At thirteen, I once stayed in my room all day reading Rosemary’s Baby in one sitting. I spent another day inside weeping through Love Story. At fourteen, I was mesmerized by In Cold Blood. At fifteen,I identified with Mattie in True Grit and Mick in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. At sixteen, my mom nagged me to do chores while I was holed up with The Good Earth.
The summer before my freshman year at UCLA, a friend gave me a paperback of The Dain Curse. I escaped with Dashiell Hammett which led to sweet, dark hours with Raymond Chandler. Cruising around L.A., my hometown, in my used 1964 Ford Falcon, I saw the city through new lenses.
The summer before I went to France for my Junior Year Abroad, I was entranced with bohemians: Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and Jack Kerouac. After my junior year ended, I traveled through Europe and took along the glamorous and adrift American expats in Tender is the Night and The Sun Also Rises.
In recent years, the slowness of August has inspired me to pick up books that I’ve long meant to read including Lonesome Dove, Tom Jones, Rebecca, and the Grapes of Wrath. I often reread The Great Gatsby in which it’s perennially a long, hot August night. This past August, I finally got around to reading Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone during a weekend at the beach. Loved it.
I hope you had a pleasant summer. For your fall reading, you might consider:
- The Iris Thorne Mysteries, my first series. All five are again on sale, now available as eBooks and trade paperbacks, including the final book, Pushover, never before published in the U.S.
- Love Kills, the most recent in my Detective Nan Vining series.
New books are coming! In 2014, Random House will be publishing my stand-alone, paranormal mystery. It’s as yet untitled, although we’ve gone through several titles, which is a story for another day. I’m also writing a new Detective Nan Vining mystery. I’m very happy to see what Nan, Emily, and Jim have been up to since Love Kills.
July 12th, 2013
“The Care and Feeding of Your Editor” was the panel I moderated at the 2013 California Crime Writers Conference held last June in Pasadena, California. It also describes my conundrum over how to care for my longtime editor and Manhattanite, Dana Isaacson, during his brief L.A. visit. First, the panel.
L to R: Colleen Dunn Bates, Annette Rogers, me, Dana Isaacson, Kendel Flaum
The editors were: Colleen Dunn Bates, founder and publisher of Prospect Park Books based in Pasadena, California; Annette Rogers, executive editor of Poisoned Pen Press based in Scottsdale, Arizona; Dana Isaacson, senior editor with the Random House Publishing Group who’s now overseeing Alibi, RH’s new eBook mystery/thriller line; and Kendel Flaum, founder and managing editor of Henery Press based in Dallas, Texas.
With three independent publishers and one huge New York publisher represented, the discussion naturally went to the advantages of “small vs. big.” The independents spoke of their benefits: the personal touch, no bureaucratic decision-making process, the ability to take a chance on regional and less mainstream works, and the freedom to handcraft their lines according to personal preference without the compulsion of always chasing the next bestseller. This is not to say that they aren’t concerned with the bottom line. Without the financial cushion of a big publishing house, missteps in publishing and promotion can be devastating to their business.
Dana said that there has been a shift in big publishing to focus on bestselling authors. Consolidation of major publishers and the eBook revolution have decimated the mid-list–authors who aren’t consistent bestsellers. The mass market paperback format is disappearing as brick-and-mortar bookstores melt away. Readers are now avidly purchasing these mostly genre titles as eBooks. This is the market that Alibi is focusing on. Dana says that the Alibi line returns to a simpler era in publishing in that acquisition decisions aren’t argued in big editorial meetings but are made by him and his boss, allowing him wide flexibility to publish books that he loves. These include my stand-alone paranormal mystery, Kiss Her for Me, which Alibi will publish in the fall of 2014, and a new book in my Nan Vining mystery series.
The panel discussion was lively and wide-ranging. Here’s an overview.
“What do writers most misunderstand about the editorial process?” The editors agreed that writers don’t understand that the process never ends. It doesn’t end when you finish that first book, or when you finish revising your manuscript per your editor’s notes, or even when your book is published because by then, you’re well into your next book, or should be. Writers write and writers edit. Period.
“There was a golden age of book editors, perhaps epitomized by Maxwell Perkins who nurtured the careers of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and others, taking chaos and building a scaffold on which the writer could build a house. It’s said that editors today want a manuscript to be as perfect as possible before they’ll consider it. True?” The editors said the short answer is, “Yes.” Smaller publishers are not flush with editorial staff. Big publishers have consolidated and cut back. Everyone is working harder than ever. No one has time to sort out a messy manuscript even if it has flashes of brilliance.
“A corollary question: will an editor dump a problematic author?” Everyone’s heard stories about diva-antics on the part of certain famous authors, mostly tolerated as long as the authors’ books are selling gazillions of copies. However, for the rest of us, editors don’t have time for nonsense. It’s a sound career strategy for an author to meet deadlines and act professionally. You don’t want a reputation of needing to be “managed.”
“Should crime writers worry about fitting a marketing niche when writing a book?” The editors said that writers should know what subgenre they’re writing. It helps the publisher market the book and also helps your agent direct the book to the right editor.
“What about rejection? What greater purpose can it serve the writer?” It’s an old saw, but the editors emphasize learning from rejection and not letting it stop you. Also, just because your book isn’t right for one editor, it might be perfect for a different one. They read many fine books but there’s a light that goes on when they find “the one.” It’s like falling in love.
Dana Enjoying the Feast at J & J
Which leads me to things I love, the San Gabriel Valley (the “626″ in local speak) and Los Angeles. I took Dana off the beaten path to some of my favorite places, including locations that I used in my Detective Nan Vining series. Ironically, I met Dana in 1992 at the Bouchercon conference in Pasadena. We’d just inked a contract for the first two books in my Iris Thorne series. Dana’s edited six of my nine published books and we’re penning a contract for two more with Alibi.
Dana and me at El Mercardito Mariachi Restaurant
First, lunch in the “new” Chinatown at my favorite hole-in-the-wall, J & J in the city of Alhambra. J & J’s juicy pork dumplings are terrific. Then a tour of Pasadena, including the Police Department, City Hall, and a couple of (fictional) murder locations in my books.
Later, we headed to the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East L.A. to see the dueling mariachi bands at the El Mercado de Los Angeles. We returned to the conference hotel after our only-in-L.A. experience stuffed, satiated, and slightly deaf.
April 15th, 2013
Iris Thorne Mystery #5 Now On Sale
I’m continuing my blog series at Elizabeth White’s Book Reviews about revisiting my first series, the Iris Thorne Mysteries, originally published in the 1990s and now available as e-books and trade paperbacks. This is my final post in the series as I’m discussing Pushover, the fifth and final Iris Thorne. I reflect about ending a mystery series. It’s like saying goodbye to beloved family members. Stop by and comment.
Also, Saturday, April 20, come and see me at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on the USC campus in Los Angeles. Here’s my schedule:
Prospect Park Books – Booth 63
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Signing Literary Pasadena — a new anthology in which I have a story
Sisters in Crime – Booth 367
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Signing the Nan Vining Thrillers and the Iris Thorne Mysteries
See you there!
January 8th, 2013
There’s a viral blog event going around called the Next Big Thing where writers talk about what they’re working on now or what’s coming out soon. I’ve been tagged by Matt Coyle, author of Yesterday’s Echo, Find out about Matt’s Next Big Thing here.
My next book is Pushover. It’s the fifth in my series featuring sexy, savvy investment counselor and amateur sleuth Iris Thorne who prowls the streets of L.A. in her vintage Triumph sports car in the “greed is good” 1990s. Pushover will be out in late February 2013.
1. Where did the idea for the book come from? Mercy. Who knows where book ideas come from? When asked about where his songs come from, Willie Nelson said: “The air. The air is full of music.”
2. What genre does your book fall under? Mystery/Suspense/Romance
3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
For Iris Thorne, I’d like someone smart, sexy, and witty yet down-to-earth — a Tea Leoni type. For her boyfriend, Garland Hughes, a younger Harrison Ford. For Iris’s ex-fiance, Todd Fillinger, I see Matt Damon.
4. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? Iris’s ex-fiance Todd lures her to post-Soviet Moscow on a business venture and to settle personal issues, but after Todd is gunned down in front of her, Iris returns to L.A. and learns the City of Angels can be more dangerous than Moscow when Todd’s dangerous legacy threatens to destroy her.
5. Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
I am represented by my longtime agent, Robin Rue at Writers House.
6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six months. But I do many rewrites.
7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are influences from movies and books. It’s sort of Vertigo meets The Maltese Falcon meets Bullitt.
8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In the late 1990s, I read a story about an American businessman who’d traveled to Moscow to pursue business ventures in the emerging Russian market. He was machine-gunned to death on a street in front of a hotel. The incident stuck with me.
9. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? I believe of my five Iris Thorne mysteries,Pushover has the most adrenaline-fueled plot. It’s lean and mean.
I’ve tagged Petrea Burchard to talk about her Next Big Thing which she’ll do on Wednesday, January 16, 2013. Petrea’s acting career morphed into writing with Act As If, her online humor column about the acting life. Camelot & Vine is her first novel. January 16, check out Petrea’s Next Big Thing here.
November 5th, 2012
I’m blogging today at the Sirens of Suspense about how reconnecting with my first books, the Iris Thorne Mysteries, has informed my later works. Check it out, comment, love it, etc.
September 18th, 2012
Me and a friend on the pier in Bandon, Oregon
I’m continuing my series of guest posts at Elizabeth A. White’s Book Reviews about revisiting after 15 years my newly re-published Iris Thorne Mysteries. This time, I’m talking about my journey to Foolproof, Iris Thorne #4. Check it out to see what the computer game Doom, O.J. Simpson, and an L.A. taxi driver have in common.
August 13th, 2012
Foolproof, the fourth in the Iris Thorne Mysteries series, is now available as an e-book at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. A trade paperback edition is coming soon. Originally published in 1998, this new edition has been gently edited by the author.
In a starred review, Kirkus raved that Foolproof is “another winner.”
Publisher’s Weekly described it as “A frothy confection of sex, murder, and deceit.”
The first three in the Iris Thorne series are also available for the first time as e-books and trade paperbacks: Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, and Fast Friends. The fifth Iris Thorne, Pushover, never before published in the U.S., will be out later this year.
February 9th, 2012
I’m guest blogging at Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White, discussing my adventures while writing my second book, Slow Squeeze, and facing the sophomore jinx. You might find it interesting.
The photo at left was taken in Lahaina, Maui. No wonder I look so content.
January 2nd, 2012
Double Delight -- Last Rose of 2011
Happy New Year everyone! With this new year, I’m delighted to introduce my completely redesigned Website. I think it looks fabulous and I’m sure you’ll agree. It was designed and developed by the very creative Stef Serafin. If you need help with your Website, do contact Stef. We’re still fine-tuning the site and polishing some of the pages.
What’s going on with my books? Lots! I’ve been busy with several book projects. I’ve been having fun lightly editing and re-releasing my first series, the Iris Thorne Mysteries, which were originally out during the nineties. The first two, Cold Call and Slow Squeeze, are out now as e-books (for the first time ever) and trade paperbacks (also for the first time ever). There are three more in the series and they’ll be out in 2012.
It was interesting for me to revisit my first books and the debut author I was then. I blogged about it here.
As far as brand-new books? I don’t like talking about my works in progress. Just superstitious that way. Just know that I’m always writing… always writing.
Happy new year.