Monday, November 26, 2007

The Old, New Black Mask

I've been doing some guest blogging over at The Rap Sheet, discussing The New Black Mask, a 1980's revival of The Black Mask pulp magazine that flourished in the 20's and 30's.

I'm at the halfway point now, having written about the first four of eight issues that were published. You can see the posts by following these links: one, two, three, four.

As a little bonus to go with the post about the fourth issue, here's a scan of a contemporary (i.e., 1986) review of the issue in the late, great Armchair Detective by NBM #4 contributor Edward D. Hoch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beyond Words

Fran Halpern interviewed me recently for her NPR radio program "Beyond Words" on KCLU. You can download a podcast of the interview here. It's in mp3 format and it runs about 30 minutes. The size is a little under 14 megabytes.

We discuss my new novel Runoff, my previous novel Candy from Strangers and a little bit about craft, research and how I got started writing.

She's a very good interviewer and we covered quite a bit of ground in a fast-paced thirty minutes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Use this word in a sentence ...


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Diebold's After Me

My new novel Runoff is a cautionary tale about a mayoral election in San Francisco where the security on e-voting machines is defeated to change the outcome of the race.

I always look at the domains of visitors on my web site, and since the book came out, one domain has been appearing consistently. On Monday:

More ominously--given the appearance of the Department of Justice just below--on Tuesday:

And on Wednesday:

Yes, it's Diebold, aka Premier Election Solutions, the same company that excised sections of their Wikipedia entry that were critical of the company's e-voting machines. You would have thought that lesson in IP address traceability would have made them a bit more savvy about covering their tracks.

There's no mention of Diebold in Runoff, so hopefully they'll relax a bit once they realize that.

However, there is one other domain I've been seeing consistently:

Yep, Random House, the uber publishing house. Guess they are checking the competition from me and my indie house, Bleak House Books. I don't know whether I should be flattered or scared.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I love LA ...

I made a short trip down to Southern California to promote the release of my new novel Runoff. First stop was The Mystery Bookstore to sign with fellow Northern California authors Simon Wood and Tim Maleeny. Here's a shot of store manager Bobby McCue with Tim:

And here is Simon with Sue Ann Jaffarian, who came to support Simon and fellow Midnight Ink author Tim:

But after a little conversation, Sue Ann and I realized we share the same (great) agent: Whitney Lee.

Next stop was the Men of Mystery event in Irvine. The first of the keynote speakers was Tim Green:

Tim is a former NFL defensive end and he gave an inspirational talk about football, the importance of reading and how he has worked as hard to become a successful writer as he did to become a successful football player.

Vince Flynn was up next and his talk included some entertaining stories about meeting presidents Bush and Clinton, incorporating very credible imitations of both men. My favorite Bush antidote: when asked by George W. why Flynn's sick wife didn't make it to a dinner at the White House where she would be seated next to the president, Flynn responded that she didn't want to get him (the president) sick. Said George in his Texas accent, "That's quick thinking."

But the highlight of the conference for me was being seated at the same table as author Josh Conviser. The fact that we were seated together at all was a bit of a coincidence because, although we had never met before, we had both been taped to appear on Fran Halpern's radio program, Beyond Words, just the day before.

I had a wonderful time talking to Josh, especially when I found out that, in addition to having written two well-regarded "cyberpunk/espionage" thrillers (to quote Publishers Weekly), he was involved with Rome, one of my favorite TV series. Turns out he co-wrote the show's story bible--the document outlining the series' characters, shape and plot line--and did much of the initial research.

Here's a shot of him from the post-event party. If he looks a little dour, it's because he hates intrusive paparazzi ... no, just kidding. It's because this was supposed to be a test shot to get the exposure right before the money shot. Unfortunately, that one didn't come out.

San Francisco County Jail

Chapter 33
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo for the last chapter of Runoff with quote:

"The day I got out, Lisa met me at the Intake and Release Facility on 7th Street with mylar balloons and champagne."

That's it! I've blogged all the photos in the book. And, as you can glean from this one, it appears as if Riordan gets arrested at the end. I wonder how that happened ...

Backhoe on Construction Site

Chapter 32
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo for chapter 32 of Runoff with quote:

"The hanger-sized brick building I remembered was gone. The only thing left was a gaping hole. Ten species of construction equipment ringed the pit with buckets, shovels and loaders dug into the earth like dinosaurs feeding."

This shot was very difficult to get. I needed a night time shot of a backhoe in a excavated construction site. I found the perfect site South of Market in San Francisco, but a chain link fence ringed the area. I had to cram the camera through a break in the fence, and to compensate for the low light, do an exposure of well over a minute.

The next picture is for chapter 33, the final one in the book.

San Francisco City Hall at Night

Chapter 31
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo for chapter 31 of Runoff with quote:

"It was still raining and it was getting late, which meant there was zero foot traffic, but everything in and around the vicinity was lit like a nighttime shuttle launch."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Me and Jobso

It's rare that my "day job" as a software development manager and my avocation (and much lower paying gig) as a novelist collide, but they did last night at the signing at Kepler's for oPtion$: the secret life of steve jobs, a novel (and parody) by "Fake Steve Jobs" blogger Dan Lyons.

I don't own a single piece of Apple hardware or software, so would be the last person to be categorized as an Apple "fan boy," but I love Lyons' blog so I'll proudly label myself a FSJFB: Fake Steve Jobs Fan Boy.

Lyons drew an SRO crowd to Keplers, but the crafty folks from Valley Wag managed to promote themselves front row seats. Here is Owen Thomas getting ready to blog live from the event on an Apple laptop:

Now it so happens that my crafty wife managed to save us even better seats than the Valley Wag boys and girls. But since Lyons poked fun at the people who camped outside Apple stores to get the first iPhones, the less said about exactly how she did that the better.

Here's a pic of Lyons waiting in the wings before being introduced:

If he looks slightly nervous, it may be because Keplers recruited Steve Wozniak, whom Lyons has lampooned mercilessly on his blog, to introduce him. Here's Woz doing the actual introduction, which he did with surprising good grace:

And here are Jobso and Woz--together again:

Woz gave Lyons a black turtleneck so he could look more like the real Jobs, but Lyons says he's resisted all requests so far to don the cloth:

Lyons' talk was hilarious. Some random highlights:

  • He purposely introduces malapropisms into the blog ("Alea iacta est, as Napoleon said when he crossed the Rubicon") because enjoys having all the commenters swoop in to correct him. He says it usually takes only about five minutes before the first person writes in.
  • For you writerly types, Lyons was outed Brad Stone of the New York Times not by clever tracing of IP addresses or other technical black magic, but by Stone realizing that anyone shopping a book in New York would have made submissions to multiple houses. (oPtion$ is published by Da Capo Press.) Stone found an editor at Random House who was willing to share the submission and was able to triangulate on Lyons from the biographical material that accompanied it.
  • Lyons mention that he had written two other novels, Last Good Man and Dog Days, and made the mistake of saying that they were available on Amazon. He then realized it was a no-no to mention the "A word" in a brick and mortar store and apologized. Keplers staff gently chided him, but rather than letting go, he said, "Well, do you have them in stock?" A staff member shot back, "Are they still in print?" Lyons laughed and said, "No, they suck. They really suck." (Actually if you follow the links to Amazon, they look like they received some nice reviews.)
  • Lyons wasn't quite sure how to pronounce namaste, and learned all he knows about the term from Wikipedia. Here he is blessing the audience:
But Woz was having none of it:

I waited in line with the other fan boys to get my book signed and asked for a special siooma inscription:

My wife also snapped a picture of me with Jobso--you can see I selected a black turtleneck for the occasion:

Right after that, he asked me to run out and get him another mango smoothie. Apparently the one provided by Keplers had chunks in it ...

By the way, if you've devoured oPtion$ and are looking for another Silicon Valley novel, you might check out Vulture Capital by moi. Here's a review to give you a flavor (not mango).

Booth for Lady Psychiatrists

Chapter 30
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo for chapter 30 of Runoff with quote:

“I don’t remember the name, but I remember the booth we sat in. It had a little sign over it that said, ‘Booth for Lady Psychiatrists.’ Roadrunner said it was his favorite place to have a drink because women always come up and try to psychoanalyze him.”

The booth is in the famous North Beach Bar Vesuvio.

Motel near Lombard

Chapter 29
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo for chapter 29 of Runoff with quote:

"I caught the #30 Stockton bus to Lombard Street near Van Ness Avenue where a lot of the cheaper tourist motels were located."