Tagged: writing

Old books made new, new books…being written!

My dear and wonderful readers,

I have a few fun items to share with you!

FIRST, I am in the process of writing the next Superior Mystery. I just finished with a scene in which Jonah cannot obtain coffee. It was a tough, emotional piece to write.

Unfortunately, writing takes time, and I have other responsibilities also. Look for this book in summer or fall of 2015.

If you want to see more Superior Mysteries, more often, the best thing you can do is tell other people about them. The more popular they are, the more time I will have for writing.

SECOND, there IS a new book, written by yours truly, that will shortly be available. I have extensively edited my very first novel, written nearly fifteen years ago. Formerly it was known as Galedor. The new title is The Forgotten King.

Here’s the cover image, hand-drawn by one of my daughters. This isn’t the completed cover, just the main image, but I think it’s awesome!

 

Forgotten King BThe Forgotten King is a fantasy fiction novel geared for youth and young adults. As far as I can tell, most of you tend to be a little more – ah, mature – than the target audience for this book. Even so, I think you may find it worthwhile for three reasons:

  • In the first place, I don’t actually know your – shall we say – maturity level. Perhaps you are in the target audience for this book.
  • Next, even if Young Adult Fantasy fiction is not your style, I bet you know someone who loves it. I would deeply appreciate it if you would consider telling the teens and young adults in your life about The Forgotten King.
  • Third, perhaps, in spite of your expectations, you may enjoy this book. I’ll be fair: my own grandmother did not like it. But quite a few other people who are not typically readers of fantasy have enjoyed it. As I revised the book, I found myself delighting in these characters once more; they certainly have their moments.

One final fun thing. My daughter, who is a Lake Superior Mysteries fan, if only because she finds me more amusing in print than in person, has created some “fan art.” Through her ingenuity, you can purchase a ceramic coffee mug which has printed on it: “Elixir of the Gods: Jonah Borden approved.”

You can find it here:

http://society6.com/product/elixir-of-the-gods_mug?curator=nojohi

Stay tuned for the big release announcement!

Too many books, too little time (to write them all, I mean)

Quite a few people have asked me if I’m writing the next Superior novel. I’m gratified for the questions, because generally, it means people are excited to see more. But my answer is, “Not yet.”

There are a few reasons why, and I’d love your feedback about those reasons.

I remember reading a quote by JRR Tolkien, addressing why it took him so long to finish the Lord of The Rings. He said “I had many other responsibilities as well, during those years and I did not neglect them.”

Like Tolkien, I too, have many other responsibilities, and I’m trying not to neglect them. This means that my time for writing is somewhat limited. It also means that the Lake Superior Mysteries is not the only place where I am spending creative energy. Therefore, I really only have enough “in me” so to speak, for one novel a year, plus all the other writing and work I do as a pastor. When I finally finish a novel, I find I need a couple months of down time to recharge.

There’s another reason I haven’t started the next Superior novel. I’m torn. I actually have a number of fiction and non-fiction books that “want to come out.” The truth is, when I started, I thought I would write only one mystery. I’m glad it didn’t work out that way, but the other books are still waiting.

Here’s what else I have that wants to come out as a book:

· A mythical history (fantasy) of the world before the Great Flood of Noah. One of my favorite twists is that Noah is afraid of water. I have at least three volumes worth here. I’ve had the ideas for this for more than 10 years.

· A creative memoir of my life growing up in Papua New Guinea. I’ve been thinking about this for about 15 years.

· A book on a particular area of theology and biblical interpretation that concerns me. Also a ten-year plus concern.

· A practical book on marriage.

I’m not done with the Lake Superior Mysteries. I’ve grown fond of Jonah and the others, and fond of the book sales, too. But maybe Jonah needs to wait a little longer before his next adventure. I’m not settled on that, just musing about it.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

ONE YEAR LATER

SS Book Photo

I figure my readership today is probably around 25,000 people – more than 100 times the number I had just one year ago.

The good news is, there will definitely be a third Superior Mystery. I have already written about 42,000 words on it, which makes the rough draft about half finished. The bad news, is that I’m fighting a bit of writer’s block, though it is nothing I haven’t dealt with before.

So, to encourage myself to get back at it, I’m going to take a look at the past year of my writing life.

I finished Superior Justice in 2006, and published it on Amazon in ’08 after a fruitless year with an agent. As of one year ago, only about 200 people had read it. Between Justice and my first novel, a fantasy foray of which I am now slightly embarrassed, I had made maybe $1000 total, over the course of several years.

One year ago, I was almost finished with the rough draft of Superior Storm. I was writing with the assumption that about 200 people would read this one also. In other words, my total estimated readership was around 200.

Inspired by my good friend and author Eric Wilson, I began to market Superior Justice with free kindle downloads. When Storm was finally ready, I started doing the same thing with it.

One year later, about 22,000 people have downloaded Superior Justice, and somewhere around 28,000 have procured Superior Storm. I figure my readership today is probably around 25,000 people – more than 100 times the number I had just one year ago.

One year ago, I had about five total Amazon reviews. Today I have 69 reviews for each of the Superior Mysteries, or 138 total reviews, plus five or so for that embarrassing fantasy novel. Storm averages 4.5/5 stars; Justice 4.6/5.

I am not making best-seller money. But I am making a nice little part time income. A year ago, I only dreamed of a monthly paycheck for my fiction writing. That dream has been a reality for the past eleven months.

In the past few weeks, I have stumbled upon a book-club and two forums where my book is being discussed/reviewed. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to know that strangers are out there, not only reading, but talking about, my work.

By the way, I know this is genre fiction. I don’t believe I am creating great literature for the ages, and I’m not expecting a Pulitzer. My books will hopefully entertain you for a few days, but they won’t change your life.

Even so, they are starting to change my life.

 

[Oh hey, before I go, I have  $0.99 promo on Superior Justice tomorrow, August 6th, 2013, on Amazon.]

SUPERIOR SUBTERFUGE!

Sorry I’m a little late on this post. The working title that my poet-daughter picked 10 ten days ago is “Superior Subterfuge.”

I really like a lot of your suggestions. Of course it’s hard when you don’t know entirely what the plot of the book is. Someone tried “Superior Deception,” and that was a close one, but I like the alliteration of this one just a hair better. Also, I’m said to say, there is another book out there with that title.

Now, I am open to feedback. You folks are my fans, after all, and if this title bombs with you, I’d like to know before I sink it in cement.

Also, I still want to give away a free book. Go to my facebook page (Tom’s Facebook Author Page) and comment on the new title. I will select one random winner out of everyone who comments on the post there within the next 48 hours. You will win a free copy of either Superior Justice or Superior Storm – your choice. It will also be your choice of format – kindle, EPUB or print copy. If you want a print copy, I’ll sign it, of course.

A TITLE HAS BEEN FOUND! But…

OK, I have good news, and bad news. And good news. The good news is, I believe I have found the title for the next Superior Mystery. It’s about time, since I am 1/4 way into the first draft. The bad news is, the title was the idea of my poet-daughter, Noelle. She really is a talented poet, so it wasn’t surprising that she came up with something I really like. HOWEVER, both Noelle and I feel a little bad about the fact that I’m not using anything that you, the fans, came up with. I really did want to give someone a free book. So…here’s the second piece of good news. I’m going to give you folks a chance to still win that book.

Here’s the deal: during the next week you can either:

A. Come up a with title that I like better than my daughter’s idea

OR

B. Guess what she came up with. Here’s a hint: it has to do with the idea of deception (but it is NOT “Superior Deception”).

The polls close either when the first person guesses it, or on June 3, 2013. Good Luck!

 

PICK THE TITLE OF MY NEXT BOOK, AND WIN A FREE COPY!

OK folks, I’m looking for feedback here, and I’ll even sweeten the deal.

I’m about 20% in to the next Superior Mystery. My problem is, I don’t have a title yet. So I thought I’d seek a little help from my readers. Below is my *rough* blurb/description of the book. Hopefully, I’ll polish it more before the book is published, but I’ve got to finish writing it first. Read the rough blurb, and what I say about the book after the blurb. Then, give me some title suggestions. The title must begin with “Superior” and I think I’d like to stay with just one other word after that. So your title suggestion should be “Superior [your suggestion]”

If I choose *your* suggestion, I’ll send you a free signed copy of one of my books – whichever one you choose. If you choose the new one, bear in mind, I’m still writing it, so it will be many months before you get your copy. Otherwise, pick Superior Justice or Superior Storm, and I’ll mail you a signed copy.

I’ll announce the winner in my next blog entry, and on my Facebook Author page.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s wintertime on the North Shore, and the snow is thick on the ground. Jonah Borden, the coffee-guzzling, rear-end-kicking, wisecracking, gourmet-cooking man of the cloth, is about to tie the knot with his sweetheart, Leyla Bennett. But before they do, Leyla joins a cult, ostensibly in order to complete an investigative report. Borden is worried: there are signs that her commitment may have become more serious.

When Borden confronts the cult leader, he is rebuffed. Meanwhile, mysterious hunting accidents begin happening around the town of Grand Lake. Assisted by his friends, Jonah tries to find a way to get Leyla out. What he uncovers is bigger than any of them had guessed. Now, he’s in a race to save his own life, and those of his friends, before a powerful enemy snuffs them out.

Some further thoughts: I think this one is going to surprise some people with a twist or two. It’s set in the wintertime.

Okay folks, go to it!

THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER

Detective-with-smoke-flipped

The title of this blog entry was stolen from an essay written by Raymond Chandler, the creator of the iconic hard-boiled private detective, Philip Marlowe. In the 1940’s and ‘50s, Chandler changed the mystery genre in fundamental ways, though in his essay, he suggests that those changes were made by other writers before him. He names Dashiell Hammett (the Maltese Falcon) among a few others, as the real pioneers.

In any case, Chandler’s ideas about the “new” mystery genre remain a guiding light for my Superior Mystery Series. Chandler advocated realism; in my opinion, actually, he advocated a “reality” that was a lot grittier and darker than the real lives that most people live. Even so, he also advocated redemption in the person of the main character:

“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished, nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor – by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”

I didn’t read this essay until recently, but I find that I have been writing this way all along.

The Lake Superior Mystery Series stands or falls upon the capable, but human shoulders of Jonah Borden. He is the hero; he is everything Chandler describes above. A few of my negative reviews said he is too good. So be it. He stands in exalted literary company if that is the case.

As Chandler says:

“If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

What are your thoughts? Who are your favorite main characters in mystery literature?

What can make a Tough Guy Cry?

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With almost forty thousand copies combined of the Superior Mysteries out there, it was only a matter of time, but I’ve started to get a few negative reviews. Not enough to change the overall 4.6/5 Amazon ratings of either book, but, surprisingly, enough to get at me a little bit. I pride myself on my generally thick skin, but when it comes to writing, apparently, I’m as sensitive as a peeled grape.

I find myself wanting to defend certain decisions I made on character and plot. I want to explain what a few readers obviously missed. I want to break down, sobbing like a wuss, and cry out “why don’t you love me?”

I mean shouldn’t everyone love my work – if I’m good enough?

But the truth is, my Superior Novels are mostly for entertainment, and maybe a little bit for art. I can’t think of any form of either one of those that is universally adored by all. For example, there are certain genres of music I just don’t care for. And even within a genre I love, there are certain artists who just don’t do it for me. I bear these people no ill will. I’m certain that they are talented enough to find a sizable audience who does love their stuff. The fact that I don’t care for their music is not an ultimate judgment upon their talent.

I have to learn to accept that I am not the one worldwide exception to all this when it comes to writing.

One thing does puzzle me, however. I rarely finish reading a book I don’t like. Life’s too short. Who reads a book you dislike all the way through, so you can write a negative review?

I did that once, a few years back, and I just have to say, Ed Gorman, I apologize. You’re a fine human being, a talented writer, and I wish you the best in finding your devoted audience.

Moisturize This!

Just for the fun of it.

I am becoming alarmed at the insidious proliferation of “personal care products” that threatens the very fabric of our society. You real men out there know what I’m talking about. It used to be that in any given bathroom there was soap, shaving cream and a hand towel (the towel was only there if a female lived in the household). But then, a highly trained advertising executive made the important discovery that when you wash your hands it dries them out. This, in spite of the fact that if you were a man and therefore ignored the towel, your hands would actually have droplets of water on them. The only solution the courageous executive could find to this problem was to sell millions of bottles of moisturizer. Others took it from there, and so now days when it is time to wash your hands the sink is lined with a bewildering array of bottles and tubes, and it’s hard to know what they are all for. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I yearn to return to the days when soap was soap; lotion was lotion; and “cleansing body-gel” was just a sparkle in the eye of some executive for Oil of Olay.

Recently my wife brought home a bottle of indeterminate contents. I found it sitting by the sink in our downstairs bathroom, for all the world as if it had a right to be there. All I wanted was to wash my hands. The pump bottle of liquid soap which I had finally become accustomed to was empty, so I read the label on the new bottle: “Moisturizing personal cleanser.” Labels like this are not particularly illuminating to the average guy. The “cleanser” part sounded positive, but “moisturizing” isn’t a normal part of my hand-washing routine, unless you count the fact that the water makes my hands wet (see above). And the “personal” gave me all sorts of dark and embarrassing visions. Was this one of those things that we men don’t need to know about?

“Honey!” I called plaintively. “Where’s the soap?”

With no answer, I scanned the back of the label. “With soothing emollients, and a fresh clean scent, Frappé Moisturizing Personal Cleanser will leave you feeling clean and fresh and soft.” Make-up? One of the innumerable lotions for the face? I had no idea. I definitely had reservations about feeling “soft,” although “fresh and clean” was OK. Finally, I decided to take a shower instead. After all, in the shower, soap was still soap.

To my chagrin, such was no longer the case. I was confronted with various bottles with names like “Soft Spring Rainshower Cleansing treatment for Bi-polar hair.” Or, “Malta Crème Rinse for petulant, or permed scalp.” Most of these I was able to identify as pertaining to hair treatment of one sort or another. One suspicious tube caught my attention, however: “Emerald Water Moisturizing Shower Gel.”

Was it soap? My bets were against it. After all, I had lived this long without the benefit of Moisturizing Shower Gel, but you can bet your styling mousse that I never would have made it this far without soap. I examined the bottle more closely. “With a fresh Marine scent…Leaves your skin feeling smooth and creamy.” This threw me into a further quandary. What was a “fresh Marine scent?” If I put this on me, was I going to end up smelling like a new recruit in the United States Marine Corps? Also, I generally take exception to the implication that my skin should feel smooth and creamy. After all, I devoted the better part of my adolescence to giving my skin that “rugged, yet strangely hairless” look. The hairless part wasn’t deliberate of course. It’s just that my arm hair developed a little too late for High School. In any case, after so much work, I definitely did not want to go back to “smooth and creamy.”

In the end, since I hadn’t been able to wash my hands yet anyway, I went with the Shower Gel. I figured a Marine scent might not so bad. After all, I bet they still have real soap in the Marine Corps

INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY…

I laugh when I see the caption on a movie or book: “Inspired by a true story.” Here is a fiction writer’s truth: virtually every work of fiction is inspired, at least in part, by true events. Certainly, the majority are not based on a true story, but real life is what feeds the mill and gets ground into fiction.

Part of the plot for my novel, Superior Justice, was inspired by a shocking event that occurred in the little town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Moose Lake was an idyllic, peaceful community, a great place to raise kids. But in 1999 a teenage girl, Katie Poirier, was abducted from the town. She was never found, and believed murdered. Police investigations focused on a previously convicted sex-offender going by the name of Donald Blom. Blom confessed to the crime, but then later recanted his confession.

When I heard about Blom going back on his confession, I thought it was quite strange. Why in the world would someone claim that what he confessed wasn’t true? Later on, the TV news showed him on his way to court, and he was in a flak-jacket (sometimes called a “bulletproof vest”). It got me to thinking – those things don’t stop rifle bullets, so if someone really wanted to shoot him, they still could have. I also assumed that Blom had insisted on wearing it, and so I got the idea that Blom might be a bit paranoid or something.

This all percolated in my brain. Now, what I do, in coming up with plots, is essentially to develop wild conspiracy theories. So I began to imagine – what if someone else, someone in law enforcement, was the real killer, and being in that position, faked a confession from the accused murderer, to close the case, and keep suspicion from ever falling on himself? What if the accused killer was going to court to tell the judge that the confession wasn’t genuine, and then got shot before he could reveal it? Voila, Superior Justice had a foundation.

Based on a true story? Absolutely not. The fact is Blom not only signed a confession to the police (which could, conceivably have been faked) but he also called a Minneapolis TV station and confessed in his own voice. In addition, he never claimed his confession was a fake – he just said he was under duress at the time. Also, I found out later that it is standard practice to put high-profile criminals in flak-jackets when moving them through public places, so he wasn’t being paranoid. And of course, no one killed Donald Blom. The police got their man, justice was served, case closed. But could you say Superior Justice was inspired by these true events? Ya, sure, you betcha.

And it isn’t just plots. I think most of us who write fiction tend to observe human nature, and then turn those observations into characters, or at least personality traits for characters. I’ve visited a few jails in my time. And so the several convicts who come into Superior Justice are not real people, but they share some common traits with real prisoners I have known.

Settings, if they aren’t flat-out-real (as they often are in mystery fiction) can also be “inspired by true places.” Jonah Borden’s favorite trout stream isn’t exactly real, but any northern Wisconsin trout fisherman knows precisely which river inspired it (and in keeping with the fisherman’s code, that’s all I have to say about that). Grand Lake isn’t a real town at all, but my readers who have been to the Minnesota North Shore know that it is something like some of the real towns up there.

This sort of real life inspiration is one of the things I really love about writing fiction. I see some little unexplained inconsistency in the reported facts of a situation, and then exploit it until it becomes a plot. Or I deal with an incredibly frustrating DMV worker, who has undoubtedly had her sense of humor surgically removed, and presto! I have the basis for a minor character.

I have a flair button on facebook. It says “careful, you may end up in my novel.” This is more true than you realize.

For legal purposes, however, I need to emphasize that all characters and events in my novels are completely fictional and any resemblance to real people, places or events is absolutely coincidental. 😉