Saturday, June 23, 2007

I've Been Rasterbating!

The Rasterbator is a desktop or web-based tool that can take any picture and turn it into a huge poster-sized image. The output is actually a pdf file that you print (page by page) on a conventional printer and then assemble with a little scotch tape.

I used the Rasterberbator on the cover of my upcoming novel, Runoff, and then stood in front of the assembled image in what I hope is an author-like pose.

Here's the result:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bad Luck and Trouble & Red Wind

In an earlier post, I wrote about Michael Connelly's homage to Raymond Chandler in Connelly's latest, The Overlook. It's not surprising that Connelly would incorporate a passage inspired by Chandler since Connelly credits his decision to become a writer on the discovery of Chandler's books.

What is a little more surprising is to find a homage to Chandler in British native Lee Child's latest, Bad Luck and Trouble. Compare the famous opening paragraph of the Chandler short story Red Wind:

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

To the first paragraph in chapter 21 of Trouble:

Santa Ana was way south and east, past Anaheim, down in Orange County. The township itself was twenty miles west of the Santa Ana Mountains, where the infamous winds came from. Time to time they blew in, dry, warm, steady, and they sent the whole of LA crazy. Reacher had seen their effects a couple of times ... He had seen minor barroom brawls end up as multiple first-degree homicides. He had seen burnt toast end up in wife-beating and prison and divorce. He had seen a guy get bludgeoned to the ground for walking too slow on the sidewalk.
But maybe it's not so surprising since Chandler, while born in the US, also spent the majority of his youth in England.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Robert Crais at Murder in the Grove

I attended Murder in the Grove over the weekend, where Robert Crais was the guest of honor and recipient of Idaho's Bloody Pen Award. Here he is giving a short talk at the group signing on opening night at a local Barnes and Noble.

Robert told several funny "signings from hell" stories:

  • At his first Costco signing (undertaken for his current book, The Watchman), he sat at a table with a massive number of his books and a gigantic poster of himself overhead. After one hour, he had sold maybe two books and an elderly gentleman came up pushing a cart. He approached the table, looked Robert over, and said, "Where can I find the batteries?"
  • At the same Costco signing, another gentleman approached and asked if he was a famous writer. Robert smiled and said yes. The man asked who he wrote like. Robert, aspiring to even greater heights of success, said Michael Connelly. The man said, "Who's that?" Then he continued, "How about James Peterson? Do you write like him?" To which Robert replied, "Do you mean James Patterson?" The man nodded. Robert simply said yes--and got his third book sale of the day.
  • On a "drive-by" signing early in his career, he visited a Barnes and Noble in Florida at the appointed time to sign stock. He approached the front desk and introduced himself. The clerk said, "Oh, yes, very nice to meet you. We've been looking forward to your visit. Please follow me." The clerk led Robert through the stockroom and into an office in the back where two other people were waiting behind a desk. They also expressed pleasure regarding his visit and asked him to sit down. Robert complied, but was beginning to get worried because he didn't see any of his books. Then one of the individuals behind the desk said, "Let's get started. Can you tell me why you think you're qualified for the assistant manager position?"
Later in the conference, Robert talked about his experiences with Hollywood on the "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Hollywood and Writers" panel. He has sold two of his novels for films: Demolition Angel and Hostage. He won't sell any of the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike books because he doesn't want to sully or contradict the mental images his readers have developed for the characters by having them portrayed on the screen by particular actors.

For the Angel movie, he very much wanted to write the script himself. Although he had TV-writing experience, the producers were skeptical, but agreed to let him take a crack at it. He did three drafts, and in the end, they were not accepted largely because his hard-drinking, cigarette-smoking, depressed and emotionally unstable main character Carol Starkey was deemed "unlikeable." A number of other writers have been hired to "fix" the problem. The first tackled it by giving Starkey a dog. The second decided the issue was her first name. He changed it to Angie, and was paid $500,000 for his efforts. Robert said he stopped reading the new script drafts after that, and as yet the producers haven't found a version they like.

By the time of the Hostage deal, Robert had learned his lesson and explicitly told his agent that he was not willing to write the screenplay. However, this set of producers had seen one of Robert's drafts for Angel and liked it, so they insisted that he do so. Reluctantly, he agreed and produced a script. The producers told him they loved it and green lighted the film. But, part way into production, Robert began receiving new drafts of the script from writers he didn't even know were on the project. He was told they were just going to "punch up the dialogue a bit" and make other minor tweaks. But by the time the movie made it to the screen, so many other people had worked on the script that Robert didn't even receive a screenwriting credit (for which he was relieved).

I had a good time at the conference, getting to know Ken Kuhlken, whose book, The Do-Re-Mi, I really enjoyed. I also met and got to know the delightful Julia Pomeroy, whose book The Dark End of Town I picked up at our B&N signing. Finally I talked up a storm and had a few too many drinks with a great guy named Rick McMahan. Rick is a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and his short stories have appeared in anthologies such as Techno Noire, Low Down & Derby, and the Mystery Writer’s of America Death Do Us Part, edited by Harlan Coben.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Overlook and The Big Sleep

I just finished Michael Connelly's The Overlook and enjoyed it a great deal.

One unexpected pleasure at the end was Connelly's obvious homage to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. Here's the second to the last paragraph from Sleep:
What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell...
And here are two paragraphs near the end from Overlook:
But Bosch thought that it didn't really matter if you died cornered in a butcher shop or on an overlook glimpsing the lights of heaven. You were gone and the finale wasn't the part that mattered. We are all circling the drain, he thought. Some are closer to the black hole than others. Some will see it coming and some will have no clue when the undertow of the whirlpool grabs them and pulls them down into darkness forever.

The important thing is to fight it, Bosch told himself. Always keep kicking. Always keep fighting the undertow.
Near the beginning of the book, Connelly has Bosch say that all ways of dieing are bad, so these paragraphs are the payoff to a theme he foreshadows early.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Runoff is Coming ...

Sounds like a flash flood warning, doesn't it?

I finished all the rewrites imposed or suggested by me, my writers' group, my mentor and teacher Donna Levin and my editor Alison Janssen, and my upcoming novel Runoff is officially "in the can." (Except for the further, extensive proofreading which will no doubt be required to rid the final edition of all the typos I always manage to introduce.)

Ace designer Kevin Glidden has also completed the cover design, which means that Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of the book can and are being produced.

Here's the front cover (click for larger version):


And the back:

The main thing left for me to do is pull together the photos that will be used to introduce each chapter in the final edition. You can get a preview of those by viewing the Flickr slide show.

And, you can find a little more on the plot and an excerpt of the first chapter on my web site.