Friday, October 29, 2010

Blogging Agents

Looking for an agent? Want to learn how to write a killer query? Wonder how a writer’s manuscript eventually lands on a shelf at the bookstore? Then check out these excellent agent blogs:

Nathan Bransford – Nathan’s an agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., and his blog is the place to be, judging by his enormous following. Some days, he’ll get several hundred comments. (Just try to be first, I dare you.) Plus, he’s funny and he knows what he’s talking about. Check out the Forums section to catch up.

BookEnds, LLC – Jessica Faust (with an occasional entry from Kim Lionetti) dispenses wise wisdom, about the agent biz in general, as well as offering some of her personal opinions on publishing. Good, solid advice here.

Pub Rants – Kristin Nelson sums up her blog in its subtitle: A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry. Timely industry news here, especially how it pertains to authors.

Query Shark and Janet Reid, Literary Agent – One agent, two blogs. On the aptly-named Query Shark, Janet Reid critiques queries (caveat querier), and on her “regular” agent blog, she provides an amusing assortment of posts and videos. Be sure to memorize her Rules for Writers in the sidebar.

These are just a few of my favorites; plenty of other agents are active in the blogosphere. In fact, I’m sure you could spend many hours a day checking out these blogs as you do your procrastinating research.

Good luck in your agent hunt!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Son Of…

Status Report:

Yesterday, I typed The End on the latest (and hopefully close-to-last) revision. A few weeks ago, I blogged about some general changes I’d planned. Here are some details about what actually happened.

1) Most of the changes were done to increase the conflict/tension.

  • I added a new character/suspect, and a new plot thread.
  • I completely changed two scenes to put my protagonist in more jeopardy.
  • I changed how two main characters relate to my protagonist, mostly making their exchanges more hostile.
  • I added a new scene, right before the end, to ramp up the tension.
  • I changed a few key spots in the ending.

2) I changed some events to make the story more logical.

3) I wanted to “beef up” the reason my protagonist got involved in this investigation in the first place.

4) Some of the changes were to reduce redundancy, in setting and content.

  • I changed the settings of three scenes.
  • I deleted one scene, and drastically shortened another to eliminate similar content.

5) I punched up some of the dialogue. This story takes place in and around a comedy club, for Pete’s sake!

6) I changed something in my protagonist’s personal life that the members of my critique group absolutely hated. (And, once it was pointed out to me, I hated it too!).

7) I changed a few names, just because.

8) Finally, I took out all the bad stuff and replaced it with good stuff :)


For every writing project, I maintain a running “snips” file where I keep stuff (snips and snails and puppy dog tails) that I’ve excised from the actual manuscript. Right now, my snips file for SON OF stands at 16K words, spread out over 67 pages (a lot of white space).

Despite all the additions, deletions, changes, mash-ups, and other alterations, this version only differs in length from the last one by 850 words.

In quality, I think it differs by a lot. In a good way. Thank goodness!


Monday, October 25, 2010

My People Will Call Your People

The other night, my wife and I sat down to watch a movie. We made it through about thirty minutes before we bailed. Lately, we’ve been not watching a lot more movies than we’ve been watching. I don’t know if it’s just me being in a finicky mood, but recent movies and TV shows have seemed repetitive and derivative.

It’s got me thinking about writing a screenplay.

[ASIDE: When the DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD publication deal was announced in the trade press, it received about five minutes of interest from people in Hollywood before they passed on it.

I think KILLER ROUTINE would make a great movie, and an even better premise for a TV series. Sort of a cross between Last Comic Standing and the Rockford Files.]

I jotted down a few positives and negatives about writing screenplays:


  • They’re shorter than novels.
  • They’re heavy on the dialogue (one of the things that comes easier to me).
  • You get to deal with Hollywood types.
  • You can dream about actors who might play your characters (and maybe someday meet them. Hello, Pee Wee Herman!)
  • When you stuck in a scene and don’t know where to go with it, you can just Fade to Black.


  • They’re very difficult to sell.
  • You have to deal with Hollywood types.
  • And the big one: I have a complete and utter lack of knowledge about writing screenplays.

Of course, I knew nothing about writing novels before I started, either. (Some may say I still don’t.) But I had read a ton of books.

I’ve watched a ton of movies and TV shows over the years, so maybe I could learn how to write a screenplay.

Or maybe not…

Fade to Black.


Friday, October 22, 2010


Welcome to Blatant Self Promotion Friday here on the blog.

I’ll go first:



DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD is now available for the Nook!





If you’re a Target fan (and, really, who isn’t?),  you can buy DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD at


Killer Routine 72dpi


KILLER ROUTINE can be pre-ordered from your favorite bookseller, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, IndieBound, and Van Stockum (for my Dutch friends).



Now it’s YOUR TURN. In the comments, give yourself (or someone else) a shout out. Got something you want the world to know about?Don’t be shy—promote away! Feel free to include links, too!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No Jive Five

Sometimes another writer will ask me for suggestions about how to improve or how to get published. After spouting a few canned remarks about working hard and being lucky, I’ll outline a more concrete five-pronged strategy.

Take classes or workshops. Having never taken a creative writing course in my life (the only English class I took in college was Technical Writing), I figured I needed to learn some fundamentals. I started with an Adult Ed class at a local high school, then moved to workshops at The Writer’s Center. Check out your local community colleges for suitable classes, or ask other writers in your area where the workshops are.

Get yourself into a critique group. I believe getting feedback on your work is a terrific way to improve. And critiquing other writers’ works also is very educational. Hook up with other writers at classes and workshops (see above) or connect on-line. Recommendation: Try to find others writing in your genre, at a similar general writing “stage.”

Join a professional organization. A great place to network and hook up with other writers. Learn about both the business and the craft. The conferences are fun, too. (I belong to MWA and ITW.)

Read, read, read. And then read some more.

Write, write, write. And don’t give up!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Fine Nine

Here are some of my favorite PI/cop series (and authors), in no particular order:

  • Jack Reacher (Lee Child)
  • Spenser (Robert B. Parker)
  • Elvis Cole (Robert Crais)
  • Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly)
  • Moe Prager (Reed Farrel Coleman)
  • Lucas Davenport (John Sandford)
  • Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro (Dennis Lehane)
  • Tess Monaghan (Laura Lippman)
  • Louis Kincaid (PJ Parrish)

What are some of your favorites?


Friday, October 15, 2010

Don’t Pull That Thread!

Sometimes, when I’m trying to impart some wisdom to my children (“aw Dad, not again”), I emphasize the importance of making good choices. Do your homework instead of play video games. Eat vegetables instead of donuts. Use a pair of scissors instead of a chain saw.

Making good choices applies to writing fiction, too.

As a writer, you’re the one in charge. You make the decisions—about the words, about the scenes, about the characters. Each novel is the product of the choices you make.

  • Should your protagonist confront the villain alone, or wait for back up?
  • Should the sidekick be a funny one, or an incompetent one, or maybe an animal?
  • Should the heroine really go down into the basement armed only with a flashlight containing weak batteries?

All along the way, you must make choices, and there are infinite possibilities. Just remember that the decisions you make will dictate future events. Of course, the challenge is making the choices that will lead to your desired outcome.

I’m in the revision stage of my current WIP. As I go through and change some of my original choices, I’m amazed by how many little threads need to be altered accordingly. Talk about a ripple effect!

At least in fiction, you can go back and fix some of your stupid choices. Too bad there isn’t a DELETE key in real life.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I still haven’t purchased an e-reader.

It seems that every week I run into somebody else who’s just gotten one. And he or she loves it.

So what am I waiting for?

Dunno. (I’ve never been accused of being an early adopter. I like to wait until all the bugs and poor design elements have been fixed. And usually, I’m satisfied with whatever I’m currently using (did I mention that my cell phone makes phone calls? That’s it. Just phone calls. No pictures, no video, no web-surfing, no GPS. I think it has an alarm clock feature.))

Maybe I’m waiting for a clear winner. Right now, I’d have to say the Kindle is in the lead, but them iPads sure do look purty.

Maybe I’m waiting until I get through my (printed book) TBR pile. Although that might take a while.

Maybe I’m waiting until ebooks have a greater market share.

Maybe I’m waiting until I get a fancy smartphone and see how easy/hard it is to read books on it. One device that does all would be convenient.

Maybe I’m waiting for prices to go down.

Maybe I’m just putting off having to make a decision.

What about you? If you haven’t bought an e-reader yet, what are YOU waiting for?


Monday, October 11, 2010

Follow This Link!

Join me today on InkSpot where I interview one of my favorite authors, Reed Farrel Coleman.

It’s a very interesting interview! (Now, would I steer you wrong?)


Friday, October 8, 2010

Join the Gang

Writing is a solitary sport.

But even an introvert like me (I scored {I I I I} on my Myers-Briggs test the last time I took it*) needs to interact with like-minded folk once in a while. That’s why I suggest you join…something.

Join a writing workshop. Here’s where you can learn some writing fundamentals and see how a wide variety of writers might approach the same topic in different ways.

Join a critique group. Here’s where you can get some specific feedback on your work. You can also learn a lot critiquing other writers’ work.

Join a professional organization (I belong to MWA and ITW). Here’s where you can network and learn about publishing as a business.

All are valuable. All are good excuses to leave your writing cave.

Sometimes, just being around others with the same “affliction” can be comforting and inspiring.

Join in the fun!


*I might have misinterpreted the results slightly.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Dreaded R Word

I got some feedback for my WIP over the weekend, and I’m still digesting it all.

Many of the “issues” are easily fixed—factual corrections, simple actions my characters did that were way out of, uh, character, needless repetition, needless repetition, needless repetition.

Other things went much deeper, and will require more time to correct:

  • Make characters nicer.
  • Make characters meaner.
  • Change some motivations.
  • Ramp up the tension.
  • Change the beginning.
  • Change the middle.
  • Change the ending.
  • Introduce more possible suspects.
  • Eliminate a flat character.
  • Reduce the number of alien abductions.
  • Move scenes around.
  • Delete scenes.
  • Add scenes.
  • Change scenes.

With all this work ahead of me, am I overwhelmed?

On the contrary. I think I see my work a lot better now, and I’m confident that making these changes will result in a much stronger story (it’s amazing how clear some problems are after someone else reads the manuscript).

But next time, I’m going to skip the first couple drafts and go straight to the third draft.

What about you, writers? Do you feel encouraged or discouraged facing a slew of revisions?


Monday, October 4, 2010


Here’s another great video from funnyman author Parnell Hall.


Friday, October 1, 2010

My Personal Publishing Equinox

Today is October 1, the halfway point between my debut novel and book number two.

Exactly six months ago, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD was released.

In exactly six months from now, KILLER ROUTINE will be released.

brick wall banner

In preparation:

  • I’m working to give my website a facelift (see image above).
  • I’m getting ready to develop a marketing plan.
  • I’m planning out my 2011 conference/event calendar.
  • I’m revising the sequel to KILLER ROUTINE (so I’ll have more time to promote later).
  • I’m trying to catch up on my sleep.

How can you prepare for the upcoming release? Easy! You can pre-order KILLER ROUTINE today!

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