Sunday, May 31, 2009

In Celebration of the Reissue of A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway's iconic description of his time in Paris in the 1920s is due to be reissued in June, restoring sections of the book that were removed by his fourth wife, Mary, prior to publication. See the Wikipedia article on the book and Christopher Hitchens' review of the reissue in Atlantic for scoop on the tantalizing passages that were suppressed in the original edition.

In honor of the republication, I'm going to return to my tracing of Hemingway's footsteps in Paris with this post and a number of others to follow.

Our first stop on the tour is a bit depressing: the Hotel Beauvoir, where Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, and their son, "Bumby" (aka Jack) stayed after Hemingway's decision in 1926 to leave Hadley. If you follow the link for the hotel, you'll find that they boast about the "romantic" Hemingway suite, which is a bit rich considering the circumstances.

From a top floor window in the hotel, Hadley could have seen the nearby apartment she shared with Hemingway (described in my earlier post), as well as the hotel where Hemingway trysted with his soon-to-be-second-wife, Pauline. That doesn't exactly evoke flowers and champagne now, does it?

Hotel Beauvoir


One Picture ...

Death Becomes Me
Originally uploaded by gun show
Is not only worth a thousand words, but I found it can really make a book trailer.

I've been posting about my use of the Animoto video creation service to put together a series of videos for my August Riordan series, and now I've made it through my back list and am ready to debut the trailer for my forthcoming novel, The Big Wake-Up.

For the most part, the strategy I used for each of the previous trailers was to grab the photographs used to illustrate the books, select what I thought was an appropriate soundtrack and then let the Animoto service do its magic with clever fades, cross-cuts, etc., all set in time to the music.

This tended to work pretty well since the photos (and the few lines of caption allowed by Animoto) were evocative enough in themselves to get across a sort of visual haiku of the story.

The problem I had with The Big Wake-Up is that the book is illustrated with photographs of cemetery statuary. I believe (hope?) they complement and amplify the mood of the text, but they are less documentary than the pictures used in the previous books, and as a result, don't work well in setting a "hook" for the story.

My solution was to look on Flickr for photos that I felt would do a better job of conveying the essence of The Big Wake-Up. Let's just say I found some doozies. I found photos of places in the book I never expected to find--and even more surprising--I found photos of those places taken at night when the action takes place. I found great shots of cemeteries mentioned in the book, I found creepy pictures of bloodstained fingers and hypodermic needles full of vile-looking liquids, but most of all, I found Emily Baehr's photograph of herself lying in a coffin.

I think Emily's shot really makes the video. Watch and see if you don't agree. And be sure to check out the full credits for all the pictures here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Four to Go ...

Runoff (in my series of book trailers).

Play it now:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Uncluttered ...

not my brain, but my workspace.

My desk was selected as workspace of the week on the Unclutterer blog. Check it out here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Three to Get ...

Candy from Strangers ... at least in terms of book trailers. Continuing my series of Animoto book trailers for my detective fiction oeuvre, I'm pleased to present the one I put together for my third book.

Unlike the first two trailers, in this one I made use of some great photographs taken by other folks, so be sure to click here to see the credits.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Take Two

Here is Owen Smith's second sketch for the cover illustration of my forthcoming novel The Big Wake-Up. (I blogged about his involvement and his first sketch here).

Compared to the earlier drawing, you'll see more identifying detail on the coffin, a niche and urn in place of the door shown earlier and refinement of the portrayal of PI August Riordan and his sidekick Chris Duckworth.

I'm really pleased with the evolution and eager to see Owen's final, full-sized sketch. And after that, oil!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Adam Savage & The Maltese Falcon

This video is all over the web in *tons* of blogs, but those blogs, by and large, are written by bloggers who would include content about one of the (nerdy) co-hosts of MythBusters, Adam Savage, and would not necessarily write about mysteries or The Maltese Falcon.

It is only here, in this blog, in the intersection of nerd and crime fiction--that thin, thin wedge of the Venn diagram--where the video can make the jump to the crime fiction-reading world.

You must watch the video if you are interested in any one of the following: The Maltese Falcon (in movie or book form), The Black Dahlia, or James Ellroy ... and don't let the business about the dodo at the beginning put you off.

Hat tip to waitingforthebeat.

This Writer's Desk

The Guardian in the UK has a regular series featuring pictures of writers' rooms (well, most often just their desks, actually) with commentary about the space from the featured writer. Here, for example, is John Mortimer's desk:

It looks every bit as messy as you'd expect Horace Rumpole's to look!

Mine is a bit more organized:

My Workspace

which probably indicates why I am the less successful writer in some deep psychological way.

I've posted the picture on Flickr, and if you click though to it here, you'll find a fully annotated version that describes most all the objects of interest on and around the desk. And, if you'd like to read a little more about the writing process I follow--for example, exactly how I fill the binder in the upper left hand corner of the bookshelf at the top of the desk--you can peruse an earlier post about it here.

(Thanks to James Calder for giving me the idea for the post in an article from the Lineup, Northern California's MWA chapter newsletter.)

P.S. And, no, I don't actually work at a desk with a loaded automatic and a bottle of booze, as my PI Riordan appears to do ...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Batting Second ...

on the Coggins trailer team is the video for Vulture Capital.

It's perhaps appropriate that today I noticed Seattle's Techflash incorporated (with credit) my picture of the Sand Hill Road exit sign on Highway 280 northbound in their article, "Web entrepreneurs: 'We don't need no stinking venture capital.'" The picture was used on the cover of the first edition of Vulture and is featured in the video.

Enjoy ...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Late to the Party

All the cool kids have doing this for a while, but I finally put together a series of trailers for my novels.

I've been using the photographs I took to illustrate the books and a video-making service called Animoto that lets you combine photos, music, some captions and computer-generated transitions determined by analyzing your music.

It only costs a few bucks per video and, considering the investment, I think they came out pretty well.

Here's the first for my debut novel The Immortal Game:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Well, now ...

Based on the on-line version of the article I blogged about here, I didn't expect the hard copy version of the profile of Joe Gores in the Stanford Magazine to leverage my photograph in quite this way ... but I'm not complaining!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Jack Kicks Butt!

Last night I attended Seth Harwood's first signing for his debut novel Jack Wakes Up at venerable Kepler's Books in Menlo Park.

Kepler's rolled out the red carpet for Seth, even placing a poster in the parking garage elevator:

To say nothing of the giant size one adorning the bookstore wall:

Fellow mystery writers Keith Raffel and Cornelia Reed were also in attendance. Turns out Cornelia, David Frost and I all have something in common ... excellent taste in (Gucci) shoes:

There was also a good-sized crowd of Seth's fans, many of whom know him from his podcasting exploits. We got our first good look at the new book before Seth took the podium:

Then Seth made his appearance:

Gave us a reading from the first chapter of the book (ignoring my shouted suggestion from the audience to read my favorite scene, "the pack rat"):

Provided thoughtful answers to questions:

And then signed books for everyone.

Afterward we retired to the bar next door, and while I left early again, I don't think that Seth stayed up until three in the morning this time.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Joe Gores Profile: All Right Now*

Fellow Stanford alum Joe Gores has a very nice profile in the current issue of the Stanford Magazine. More than just a piece about his latest novel, Spade & Archer (the authorized prequel to The Maltese Falcon), it talks about how Joe got his start writing and private investigating. See it here.

Be sure to also check out the sidebar items: 'By Gad, Sir, You Are a Character' and Formula Done Right.

And you won't want to miss a close examination of the atmospheric photograph near the top of the article ;-).


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Good (Cable) Karma?

I didn't write my latest novel, The Big Wake-Up, in the apartment where Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon, but I did have Bill Arney, current apartment resident, read the first chapter of the book there.

Listen to his reading and watch an accompanying slide show of the real locations in San Francisco referenced in the chapter by clicking >>HERE<<.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Cat's Out of the Bag ...

I've been blogging a fair amount about cover designs for my forthcoming novel, The Big Wake-Up. As I tried to hint here, Bleak House Books is going with an illustration rather than a photograph as the basis for the design. I'm now in the position to officially announce that the artist they've engaged to do it is Owen Smith.

To say I'm thrilled to bits is an understatement. Alameda magazine points out that Owen:
Painted portraits of musicians Howlin’ Wolf and Frank Zappa for Rolling Stone; illustrated the children’s books Magnus at the Fire and The Jack Tales; designed five mosaic mural panels for a Brooklyn subway station, commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority; did the cover painting for Thomas Sanchez’ book The Zoot-Suit Murders; designed posters inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon for the San Francisco Art Commission’s 2008 Art on Market Street program; and is working on murals, mosaics and concrete sculptures for the new Laguna Honda Hospital buildings in San Francisco.
And, as an extra bonus, he's given me permission to blog a little about the process of creating the cover. I'll be sharing intermediate sketches as he produces them and of course the final painting (and eventually the cover based on it).

We began the process with a conference call between Alison Janssen (my fabulous editor), Owen and myself. The first order of business was deciding on the scene that Owen would illustrate. Before the call, Alison and I had come up with a selection of three or four options, but we fairly quickly winnowed them down to one: a scene where my protagonist PI August Riordan and his sidekick Chris Duckworth are in a crypt prying open a coffin.

We all liked the scene because of the inherent drama, the fact it involves the two series protagonists and that it was emblematic of title. Also, we felt it gave a good flavor for the book without giving too much away--like why are the characters opening the coffin, exactly who or what is in it and why are the contents glowing?

With the scene selected, we focused on the appearance of the characters and their surroundings. Their surroundings were relatively easy because I had based the description of the crypt on a real mausoleum in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California and was able to provide a picture of it to Owen.

The characters were harder. Most of the books in the series are written from Riordan's point of view, so there are good descriptions of Duckworth in this book and the earlier ones, but Riordan isn't in the habit of looking in the mirror and relaying what he sees, although he is subjected to an uncomfortable "inspection" in The Big Wake-Up, and as a result, the reader does get a sense for the topography of some of his features.

Things like ages and dress were also a challenge. I haven't been specific about the age of either character, although my sense (and it was only a sense, really) was that Riordan was in his mid- to late 40s and Duckworth was at least ten years younger. It was interesting to find out that Alison had assumed Riordan was a bit older, but we all agreed that in terms of build, Riordan would be bigger and bulkier and Duckworth would be smaller and slighter. We also determined that both would be probably be dressed fairly casually for the grave robbing mission, but recognized that Duckworth is always much more stylin' than Riordan.

The last thing we discussed was the perspective. We decided that we wanted to be tight on the two characters--with enough of the creepy surroundings to get the atmosphere across--and we wanted the contents of the coffin to be completely or mostly obscured.

Owen went to work and this is what he came up with:

Alison and I both thought it was tremendous. In fact, I could almost see the cover being based on what Owen had characterized as a "first ROUGH" sketch:

We just had a couple of small suggestions. The door in the crypt has been knocked down by the time Riordan and Duckworth get inside so it shouldn't be pictured, and we thought it might not be clear enough that the item being opened was in fact a coffin.

Owen's going to take the comments under advisement and flesh out the scene a bit more in the next revision. Stay tuned ...