Thursday, March 30, 2006

Orson Scott Card again...

Recently I posted about starting Ender's Game, and whether I could read a book by a writer who has...let's say very strong views about political and moral issues. Views, I don't necessarily share. Steve Hockensmith, author of the quite funny Holmes on the Range says he can't enjoy Card because of those political leanings. I answered something to the effect of "too bad, you're missing out." Steve then emailed me with a threat of bodily harm. I've printed that out and have it in a safe deposit box with instructions to my lawyer concerning what should be done in case of my untimely demise.

Well, though the book is really good, and I read over a hundred pages in one day (almost a page-speed record for me) I've only gotten another thirty pages along. Not, mind you, that the book is bad or anything. I think it's dragging its feet a little making a point I got a while ago (Ender needs to take command though he's only seven or eight years old). But I simply don't have time to read as I would like. Will I finish the book? Of course. Probably even very soon. Maybe this weekend.
I'd give real money to be able to sit for some serious blocks of time reading Ender's Game.

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I also just added a bunch of used Bill Crider paperbacks (all Dan Rhodes series) to my collection of TBR books: #s 1039, 1040, 1041, 1042 and 1043 on the pile. I'm actually looking forward to his next Dan Rhodes A Mammoth Murder. Bill has written books with Willard Scott. Not really connected to anything, just thought I'd blurt that out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

In Which Steve H. is Called a Commie Sympathizer

Steve Hockensmith: Brilliant writer or Red Menace?

Steve Hockensmith asks whether it is difficult to keep myself out of political troubles on this blog. Short answer? Easy as pie. Nobody reads this blog, therefore, nobody gets offended. Long answer? Even if someone did read this, I can't be bothered with politics - I'm getting old and, in fact, older by the minute. There's no time for politics, I've got books to write. I don't vote straight down any ticket. I tend to vote contrary to whoever is in power. There's my political statement - I think give and take is healthy. I think whoever the incumbent is at any one time in any office should have to look over his/her shoulder at the people who want that seat. I think government works best when it works slowest, when everyone has to compromise, when power does not rest with any one party. I was troubled for a while when the Presidency and the majority in House and Senate were all Republican - not because they were Republican but because they might act swiftly on things and make sweeping changes, disrupting life. Then I took a nap and felt better. Whatever they do will be watered down, fought in court and undone in the next administration.

Now the reference to Steve Hockensmith's political leanings come from the fact that he was upset by Orson Scott Card's politics. I had to look that up. He's staunchly conservative. I must therefore assume that Hockensmith is a commie pinko, let's-give-eveyone-rights, treehugging, whale-saving, composting-and-recycling kind of guy. I also like composting, so this is fine by me.

The difficulty is that Hockensmith is put off from reading anymore of Card's books. I don't think I would be. Let's go to extremes - say Joseph Mengele wrote a fine novel (something Bridget Jones-y, perhaps?). Should I boycott it because of his politics? Okay, that may have gone too far. I'd boycott that. Wouldn't even watch the movie, really. But try Ezra Pound (poster boy for fascist writers; can't think of any others; well, maybe Card). Should I boycott his poems? Don't like poetry usually. Makes my head hurt. But you get the picture. I hope.

There. Was any of that controversial?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

I'm going to be writing some science fiction the next couple of years so I thought I'd start out my sci-fi "career" the right way by reading some of the classics. (I've read plenty of Star Trek novels and a few of the older classics by Poe, Hawthorne, Stevenson, et al). I picked up Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Game. All I can say is "Man, is this stuff like crack or what?"

If you know how slowly I read, you'll know that I've read 100 pages in less than 24 hours (along with four short stories from a certain anthology I'll be mentioning later AND writing 3,000 words for my latest effort) means I'm fully engrossed. If you haven't read it, pick it up. That's an order, launchy!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bronx Noir: How I Got In...

Good question. I met Johnny Temple of Akashic Books at the Las Vegas Bouchercon some years ago. He moderated a panel I was on. Then I met him again a year or two later as Brooklyn Noir was coming out. He was promoting it at the Harlem Book Fair (a wonderful event each July). I told him them that if there were ever to be a Bronx Noir he should remember me.

It turns out SJ Rozan told him essentially the same thing and things started to roll. There are several writers who had a connection to The Bronx as lowly as that borough is in the NYC hierarchy (we've had NYC mayors who really would have been hard pressed to identify The Bronx on a map*). I know SJ Rozan from another Harlem Book Fair where she bought my first two books (God bless her). We always chat at conferences or wherever so when she set things up with Johnny Temple (a name that has to be said with both parts) we emailed and bada-bing, bada-boom** I was in. Now here's the criteria (besides some writing skill) - a connection with the Bronx. The stronger, the better. I was born and raised there. I moved out in my thirties. I was never arrested, never mugged. In fact, besides having our house burglarized a couple of times and my dad's car broken into (oh and his hubcaps stolen, but that's actually an almost comic story) we never had much to do with crime. I just observed a lot.

Did I tell you the one about how when I was about seven this woman in a bra and hot pants banged on our door screaming. She had a wallet in her hand and begged me to let her in. I refused (no fool, I). A half minute later, a man with no shirt and his pants unzipped dragged her away. I was looking at him, so he told me she was his daughter. I believed him then, but of course, she had been (ahem) working for him when she got the brilliant idea to just take his wallet and run. Where to? No idea. Didn't stop her.

For info about Bronx (and NYC) crime go to the source. The NYPD. Fascinating stuff. Bad things still happen in The Bronx and NYC but, to get real noir, you have to go back to the 1990s when NYC averaged 6 or 7 murders a day.

* For some interesting compare and contrast, check this out.

** Mostly a Brooklyn thing unless I miss my mark by a lot. A wise guy wanna be line now.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bronx Noir

SJ Rozan let me know it was kosher to tell the world I'm in Bronx Noir coming soon from Akashic . The Akashic line of Noir titles is extra cool, and now I'm in. That's cooler than a thousand Suns.

You may wonder where's the Bronx? The Bronx is up and the Battery's down goes the song. Ie, the Bronx (da Bronx) is North of Manhattan. One of the five boroughs that make up New York City, fourth in population with only 800,000 citizens. Where are all the others, you might ask? I understand most made it out alive.

Who the hell comes from the Bronx? You ask. Besides SJ of course. And Me. Try Ed McBain. Try Mary Higgins Clark. Try Penny Marshall. Okay, so she's not too mystery related.

How about Edgar Allan Poe? Wrote some of his most famous poetry while living in the Bronx. Mostly about going crazy.

Expect Bronx memories from me for a while to come. Can you tell I'm excited? Me a little Puerto Rican kid who grew up in one of the worst neighborhoods in a tough city and now I'm...anthologized!

Julia Spencer Fleming...

I had occasion to email Julia Spencer Fleming yesterday and in the response I got an unexpected offer to submit to an interview. Now the interview process is relatively painless, but not every author wants to go through the hassle. For instance, another Fleming (Sir Ian) has steadfastly refused to answer all of my attempts to set up an interview.

Now this is exciting news for me not jsut because I realy liked her novel Out of the Deep I Cry, but I also just bought a pb copy of another of her novels which I can't find for the mess in my writing space but which I'm going to say has a hymn based title. Perhaps more importantly, Julia is one of those writers everyone should want to emulate. She does good work and she is good people. The two traits don't always go hand in hand.

Now, what to ask her...?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Scratching a Niche

Went to the Latino Expo in Hartford, CT this afternoon. I've not paid much attention to marketing my books to the Latino community so far. Since the books are in English (anybody for the Spanish Language right?) it's a little difficult knowing where I should advertise, who I should talk to, where I should be trying to make appearances. The only Latino magazines I know of, for instance, are huge circulation glossies. My entire advance wouldn't get me a page of advertising.

I went to the Latino Book and Family Festival in Houston a couple of years ago, but just as a visitor - happened to be in the town for a booksigning. That was a large and unwieldly event. Today's was a lot smaller, and, I think, a lot more manageable.

Don't know what this adds up to. I found a few local periodicals. They might be interested in hearing from me when the fourth book comes out in October. Maybe a review, maybe an article. Maybe I'll put some money into an ad or two just to see what effect that has.

Maybe I'll get a table at the next Latino Expo . Don't know. Scratching this niche will take more thought.

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Meanwhile, have you read my story at Coffee Cramp? It's about the end of the world. And a coffee machine. Check it out.

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And don't forget my two contests: send a comment saying you want Steve Hockensmith's latest book in ARC form (free of charge) and it may be yours. So far only three people have put their names down and one of them was Steve. Not good.

Also, if you're a writer and are preparing a ms, you may want to enter the contest on my homepage. Go take a look.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Short Stuff

So far, this year has been very good to me on the article and short story front. I've had five stories accepted by places like SHOTS, CrimeSpree, and Demolition. Very exciting stuff. I also have four non-fiction (review/article) works coming out this year. I've also been invited to add to two anthologies (details when it's kosher to talk). This has all gone well and it's early yet in the year. Perhaps I'll publish more short stuff before the year is over.

Only one of these magazines will pay me actual cash. But I am richly rewarded in honor and glory. No joke. I am truly honored when knowledgeable people select my stories out of a pile of submissions and think they are worthy. I am honored that the editors trust me with their readership.

Bryon Quertermous asked recently how writers are doing on the sales front. I'll ask a different question: besides the potential money (always nice and an appropriate motive for a writer) what other reasons do you write short stories for?

Short Stuff

I'm now writing four short articles/reviews, and I have five stories accepted for places like SHOTS, CrimeSpree, and Demolition and two others I have to write for anthologies (more about that later...perhaps much later). That's double digits for the short stuff for 2006 and, to quote The Carpenters (one of my dad's favorites): We've only just begun.

One short story will earn me some cash. The others will earn me honor and glory. And I mean that. No joke. It is an honor to me that knowledgeable people trust me with their readers. It's no small thing. I've certainly had plenty of stories rejected over the years. That is the norm for most writers.

I've written two pieces of flash fiction. I'm thinking of sending one to Tribe's Flashing in the Gutters , but I'm a little scared. I've never written flash fiction and everyone there is really good. (Go ahead. Take a look. I'll still be here.) What if my stories missed the point of the format and are actually bad? Anyway, that's my insecurity. I'll send the little ones out soon. Promise.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Oops! I did it again...

I ran a contest here on the blog without an end date. Don't know what I was thinking. Anyway. Win an ARC of Steve Hockensmith's novel Holmes on the Range. If you don't know Steve and his work...well, that's why the link's there. Suffice to say he's won awards and his stories are funny. Oh and he writes mysteries.

All you have to do is send me a comment saying you'd like to win. I'll put the names in a hat, pick one out and contact the winner. No fuss, no muss.

Now for the deadline: March 19th, 2006.

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I won't forget to say you should also take a look at my very first attempt at anything science-fictiony. You won't regret it. I hope: Coffee Cramp Magazine .

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Hockensmith Contest

Steve Hockensmith is the award winning author of a slew of EQMM and AHMM short stories and of Holmes on the Range, a very funny mystery set in the Old West. You probably would never have thought of it, but here's a contest: I've got a copy of the ARC for the book. Sure it's out already and you could pay for the hardcover. In fact, Steve would probably prefer that. But you can also just leave me a comment that makes it clear that you'd like to win that ARC instead. I'll put the names in a hat and pick out a winner*.

Of course some of you may be thinking this is some ploy Torres has cooked up in order to get you to pay for the postage. Not so. I'll do that. Maybe you're thinking, that Torres just wants to get my address so he can steal my identity. Frankly, I'm happy with the one I've got. Perhaps you're thinking I've just got too many books cluttering up the house and I thought this would be a nice way to shift some. Closer.

Anyway, send a comment, the book could be yours.

BTW, the book is unsigned (Steve refused) but he'll have no choice but to sign it if you present it to him at the signing table at some conference. In fact, I can say with some certainty that the only thing Steve likes to sign better than an ARC is a conference program. Preferably one where his author photo arrived too late for inclusion so he's represented by a skeleton or a raven.

* Steve Hockensmith, Hockensmith family members, and employees of Steve Hockensmith are not eligible.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Who Knew...?

Who knew "Big Red" Amlingmeyer had a blog ? I didn't. Anyway, if you don't know, Big Red is the star of Steve Hockensmith's debut novel Holmes on the Range. Funny stuff both blog and book. Go forth and read.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Writing Contest

Did I forget to mention a writing contest on my website? Just go to the homepage and the very first item, no scrolling, will lead you to the contest. Essentially, you send in the first page or so of your manuscript for me to judge. If you win, I'll contact you, and you can send forty-nine more pages, and I will provide you an in-depth critique. To win, all you need to do is make me want to read more. Simple.

Now, I know what you're thinking: what if this Torres guy just says "no one made me want to read more"? First, that won't happen. I promise to declare someone the winner and request the full first fifty pages of the ms. I'll read it and thoroughly critique it for style and content.

You have nothing to lose and a possibly valuable experience to gain.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Cart Thief by Rachel Dunstan Muller

This story had me laughing out loud. In it, a man's obsession with shopping carts brings him to no good end, but it's the obsession rather than the end that I thought hilarious. Ms. Muller deadpans her way through the story and the juxtaposition of the tone with the subject matter does the trick. The ending is pretty inventive as well and was reminiscent of a short story called Game On by Iain Rowen (I think).

All in all, a great read and a good reason to go out and get the latest (May 2006) edition of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Short Story by Steven Torres

If you were wondering how it is that the Universe can be saved from flying apart at the seams, then I've got the story for you. Actually, Coffee Cramp Magazine has it. It's called Chaos, 2099. In the story, a man with a wrench works feverishly to counteract the forces of Dark Matter and Dark Energy which will, according to scientists, tear the Universe asunder... In a few quadrillion years.

Read it. I like the story. Fair warning though - for whatever reason the formatting is a bit off.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Noir is the New Black

Just finished Little Girl Lost by Richard Aleas. Quite good. If you like noir/hardboiled, you’ll like this. The story has to do with John Blake, a PI who investigates when his high school sweetheart turns up dead. The prose is pretty tightly wound, the voice of the 1st person narrator is sharp throughout. Having read Ed McBain’s early novel The Gutter and the Grave recently, this novel compares well. The ending might have been telegraphed a bit too much, but maybe I’m just getting better at figuring these things out. I’d like to think so.

Anyway, gets me thinking as to why noir/hardboiled seems to be everywhere now. Hard Case Crime is one new provider of this kind of literature, but so is Akashic Books . There are others I’m sure. Then there is Murdaland (really? No link? What’s up with that?) and a host of fine online noir/hardboiled short story venues. Is this all part of a giant cycle that is hard to predict because its movements are slow? Poe was pretty noir. Fifty years later, Doyle was not. Chandler/Hammett (Chanmett? Hamler?) were noirish. What about whoever led the way in crime writing in the seventies and eighties? Don’t know who that would be really. Of course, it would help my theorizing if I knew what I was talking about. I don’t really.

Here’s a thought, in a world without much to believe in, one constant rings true – Pain. Yes, with a capital P. And so we read Noir seeking the real experience, the spiritual truth. The only tue thing available in a cynical world. Ow. Well, anyway, if that’s the experience you’re looking for, Little Girl Lost has it in spades.