Monday, April 21, 2014

I Still Love Lucy

Lucille Ball (1911-1989) was an American comedienne, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film executive, and star of three landmark sitcoms; one of the most popular stars in America during her lifetime; a movie star from the 1930s to the 1970s; on television for more than thirty years.

Pretty, sexy, funny, almost a dingbat, star of I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. The original Redhead of the Week received thirteen Emmy Award nominations and four wins, was the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Governors Award in 1989. Lucy was our first Redhead Hall of Fame inductee. That was a few years ago, and where I picked up most of this rehash. I write about Lucy a lot.

Here's what I wrote back In July of 2007, the first ever Redhead of the Week:

"After much rumination, and consultation with shrinks, I now believe this thing I have for redheads stems from Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy show reruns. She was pretty, spunky, sexy in her own funny way, and definitely all the entertainment you’d ever need for a long weekend.

"Yes, she was a pain in Ricky's ass, but there must have been plenty of good reasons why her hot Latin musician husband never strayed in all those years."

This redhead was a wild thing.

In 1927, Lucy dated a gangster by the name of Johnny DeVita. Because of the relationship, Lucy's mother shipped her off to John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City. Lucy came home a few weeks later when drama coaches told her that she "had no future as a performer."

The redhead responsible for my neurosis persisted, however, and began a performing career on Broadway, using the stage name Diane Belmont, and then moved to Hollywood and appeared in small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures.

At 29, Lucy eloped with Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz.

Oh, I knew you were a WILD thing.

In 1948, Lucy was a wacky wife on My Favorite Husband, a new radio program, and when it became a hit, CBS asked her to develop it for television. She insisted on working with Arnaz. CBS executives worried about an All-American redhead and a Cuban as a couple, however, and neither were they impressed with the pilot episode. Lucy again persisted, and toured a vaudeville act as the zany housewife with Desi. The tour was a smash, and CBS put I Love Lucy on the air for a stunningly successful nine-year run.

The show co-starred Desi as Ricky Ricardo and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Ethel and Fred Mertz, the Ricardos' conflict-creating landlords.

On April 18, 1989, Lucy complained of chest pains and underwent heart surgery for nearly eight hours. She died a week later. We will miss her always, as will many millions of fans around the world.

Thanks to Lucy and Wikipedia. Visit Lucy and Desi's official website.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Protagonist or Antagonist, Who Will YOU Root for?

With both hands, I lift Nataska’s mask from the blanket and draw the Black Ogre’s likeness down over my face. Gazing through, a current of strength races through me, as if the black spirit's power flows directly to my heart. There is comfort in the darkness, the cover such a screen provides. This is natural. All living things must have a black kachina to go to, a killing spirit when they are attacked, a monster in chains. Why? Because everything in this world both eats and is eaten. Nature seeks us out for slaughter, and staying alive and leaving seed means protecting your ferocity. Each of us needs the ability to wage war, to struggle for our lives. And so while half the world criticizes, sees me as villain, I know I fight for my people, my culture and all the forgotten lives on this harsh globe -- that place where all of us are still eaten. And though the White Man has killed millions of American Indians, only one is needed to get even. Me. With the determination of a desperate man, I light the candle. I care not if the fire engulfs us all.

A complete manuscript is available from TFA's agent, Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. BLACK KACHINA is a 70,000 word contemporary thriller. Protagonist or antagonist -- which will YOU root for?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Famous Author Dances as Daughter Sheds Name, Ties

The Famous Author's female child was married this past weekend, and while most dads reminisce, weep and bemoan the "loss" of a daughter at such events, TFA danced the night away. Watch TFA display his true colors by clicking on the video below. If you don't recognize his dance moves, then you are too young to remember Dee Dee Sharp sing the Mashed Potatoes -- one of those odd ditties created in the studio using the names of other hit records as lyrics, but which caught fire with half the high schoolers in America and became the Great Mashed Potatoes Dance Craze. Figures TFA would fall for the latest in trends, but why fifty two years later? When he showed up at the office this morning, I asked TFA about this emotional inconsistency:

"Sad?" he said. "Are you kidding? Are you nuts? Like everyone else in the room, I am happy for my daughter. Nothing to be sad about."

"Her name is no longer Getze," I reminded him. "Doesn't that bother you?"

"Hardly. Now the U.S. Marshals won't mix us up serving warrants."

Friday, April 4, 2014

You Calling Me a Screwball?

Rosalee Richland is the pen name of two square dancing writers -- Cyndi Riccio and Rhonda Brinkmann -- who joined forces to create the Darla King cozy mystery series and Darla's own blog. We tried to have Darla interview me -- one fictional character interviewing another fictional character -- but the FCC said we couldn't do it. Here's "Darla" asking questions of The Famous Author.

What prompted you to write a series rather than a single book and to re-issue it beginning in 2013?

I wrote BIG NUMBERS with no thought of a series. But when the publisher tells your agent they want a second book with the same protagonist, though, most writers don't say no. I sure didn't. I like writing Austin Carr -- he's sort of an alter ego -- and I hope I earn enough readers to keep going. That's why I was thrilled when Eric Campbell of Down and Out Books said he wanted to reissue the first two and publish a third -- BIG MOJO -- for the first time. I believe in Austin and don't think until now he's gotten a fair chance to prove himself. New York says the public won't care about a stockbroker. And it's true not everybody likes him. But for the first time in seven years the Austin Carr stories are being read, reviewed, and purchased. Austin definitely has some fans.

The Austin Carr Series is referred to as a “screwball” mystery rather than a “cozy” mystery or simply a mystery. How did you choose this description?

Screwball is what I've heard agents and booksellers call mysteries by Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, Lisa Lutz, Tom Dorsey, and others. Funny mystery I've heard as well, perhaps slightly more often. I think of Austin as a screwball so as far as I'm concerned, it fits. One important thing: My books aren't cozies. There is some violence. People fight and die on the page. Though usually played for laughs, there are also sexual situations, and Austin makes jokes and references to his sex life. More than one reviewer has said he thinks like a seventeen year old.

Is there any significance to the name, “Austin Carr”?

I thought it sounded a bit goofy and that's what I wanted for the character. If you imagine Bugs Bunny as his mentor, it's easy to understand Austin. After I wrote the book, I discovered Austin Carr is the name of a very successful college and professional basketball player from the 1980s. I probably plucked it from my sports news memories.

Your other works include noir, crime, and horror. How different is it to write the Austin Carr series in comparison?

After four completed novels with Austin as the protagonist, his world is a very comfortable place. I have ventured out to write other things over the past five years (one thriller is still circulating), but it was warm and fuzzy coming back to Austin for Down and Out and the reissues. Right now I'm giving BIG MOJO the once over and discovering I have more to say. Because so much of my life parallels Austin's, it's as if I've spent the last forty years doing research for the series. I have so many more exciting places I want to send him.

How would you describe the audience who will most enjoy reading BIG MONEY?

I'd say a well developed sense of humor is key. But thanks to Goodreads and their giveaways, I have REAL pictures. I give away books, so right now on Goodreads I can see a name and picture for over 1,000 people who wanted to win my book in a drawing. In the majority of cases, these are people who have seen the cover, read the description, then filled out their address trying to win the book. Of course not all of these people are going to like my book if they win, but all those faces give me a very good idea of my market. I was told the mystery market is 75% women, mostly middle aged and college educated. My market looks to be 90% women, from 19 to 73.

What else would you like to share about yourself and your books with your readers?

Austin's two children will require more and more attention from him as the series progresses. Like most of us, Austin Carr's worries and troubles are complex, varied, and often fanned by the flames of family.

Thanks so much for joining us Jack!  I definitely fall in the market and enjoyed reading about Austin Carr!

Thank you, Darla. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How TFA Ended Up a Writer

There are so many revelations, I couldn't let this pass. The Famous Author wrote a guest post for Sapphyria's Book Reviews, in which he describes his school years. Yikes. You wonder how he survived -- not from any tough neighborhoods, rotten family life or broken hearted events. Oh, no. TFA screwed things up all by himself. Just listen:

"When I was a kid, everybody read books at my house, my Dad and older brother barely closing the pages for dinner. I can still hear my mother scolding them to "put your books away, please" as she served the creamed tuna on toast. (Yuk). Reading stories and other people's words was a learned experience, one I've always loved.

"Everybody at dinner back then was also a college graduate, or headed that way -- everybody but me. I read like crazy during high school, just not the stuff I was supposed to be reading. I think the reasons my grades lacked any sign of average intelligence included the books and stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Hemingway, and Somerset Maugham. Those pages and stories were so much more interesting than algebra, science, and foreign languages. That I refused to do any homework might have been another reason. (It seemed unjust I had to go to school all day and also work later. When school was out, I figured I'd earned time for myself and my interests -- baseball, reading and TV.)

"Nearly flunking out of high school didn't worry me much, but my parents and counselors thought the idea a poor one, so we worked together to find classes I could manage to pass. Not easy with my ban on homework. One of them was Senior Problems. Another -- journalism -- saved me. I discovered a knack for writing quickly and clearly, perhaps because of all that reading. I also learned I liked making up stories.

"Well, actually I knew that before. Ha.

"I worked in a gas station after high school, delivered film to drug stores for a film processor, then for a Chevrolet agency I cleaned cars as the Assistant Lube Man. My favorite job title. I also continued to read a lot and decided to try journalism again. I earned a shot as copyboy on the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, got the job and loved it. The newspaper was so much fun, full of interesting characters. Being a reporter sounded cool, too, something to work for, plus they gave me a chance to write immediately. I earned my first byline at nineteen, and I was hooked. Seeing my name in the big metropolitan newspaper made me a writer forever, I think. When the Herald's writers went on strike with the press men a few years later, the Los Angeles Times offered me a job as reporter.

"I was already working on my first novel by then, a rip off of For Whom the Bell Tolls. I had lost two friends in the Vietnam War, and no one could explain to my satisfaction why they or any American had to die there. At the time, I was also reading Hemingway, so my first attempt at a novel was about a group of young Americans hiding in the mountains near Los Angeles, starting a revolution.

"I didn’t get too far before realizing my piracy -- or I figured out it was a dumb story -- and gave up, thank goodness. The next novel attempt, a mystery, I managed to finish. I called it Bakersfield Blue and it's still in a drawer somewhere. The predecessor to BIG MONEY showed up three manuscripts later, took twenty years to be published, and on the way took more turns than a python. But that's another story."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Kate Eileen Shannon Tries to Raise TFA's Irish

An author herself, Kate Shannon can ask some tough questions. You should check her blog on a regular basis. Last week she went after The Famous Author with both barrels and managed to rough him up pretty good. Can you believe he's still wearing that hula shirt? Here are the questions Kate thought to ask him:

Are you as interesting as Austin?

Heavens no. I read and write all day long, then a TV show or two, go to sleep. Guys don’t get much more boring than me.

Why are you using that old picture again? I thought Austin and I had cleared that up!

It’s all I have, plus the marketing department (the wife) says I need to look younger. And you should never believe Austin. He’s a big liar.

I heard your granddaughter has a coloring book that has sold better than your books. Care to share a link?

No way. You think I’m going to help her sell more books than  me?

If the Playboy Channel (do they still have that?) were to pick this up as a TV series, who do you see playing Austin since George Clooney is too old?

Johnny Depp would do Austin Carr nicely, I think. He dresses up very well.

Is your wife a redhead?

Not this one. But my first love was, my high school sweetheart. I married her when I was twenty. We were just kids and really didn’t like each other much, so the marriage only lasted four years, but at least she was a redhead.

You know I am not the only guy who has a thing for redheads. It’s documented. Maybe it’s just because they stand out — they’re different. All I know for sure is that my interest goes back further than high school and my first wife — all the way to Lucille Ball. I LOVE LUCY was a popular TV show at our house, and she was not only gorgeous, but funny. I like funny. Silly is really good, too, and ridiculous … well, ridiculous makes me hot.

I know you will be re-releasing BIG MOJO but what do you have in the works that is new and can you share a bit about it?

Actually BIG MOJO is new, never before published. I’m still in the process of final editing as I answer your questions. And there are many important changes coming to Austin’s world in this third episode. In #2 BIG MONEY I introduce a new character, Mr. Vic’s grandmother, Mama Bones, and in #3 BIG MOJO, she becomes a major player in Austin’s life and the series. She is a strong and interesting character. Writing #4 BIG SHOES, I’ve had trouble keeping Mama Bones under control. She wants my job. I’ve heard writers say, oh, yeah, it was thrilling that my character came alive and just took over the book. But that’s not for me. The story is mine, Mama Bones. You can’t have it.

We joke around but the fact is you have mad skills when it comes to writing. Seat of the pants with clean up in edit or careful plotting with editing as you go along with your writing?

Kind of you to say I have writing skills. I work hard to keep them hidden. As for my process, the first draft is exploratory. I don’t know exactly what my story is until the first draft is done, so I don’t spend much time rewriting while I’m getting that first pass on paper (computer). I let the manuscript sit a few weeks, then read it, decide what the story is REALLY about. Next is a crude outline — one line is one scene — then the second draft. This is the hardest part for me. Everything has to make sense this time. One chapter should follow the next without hitch. In other words, I really have to work on this draft. The third and final pass is pure fun — I play with words, usually cutting as many as I add. This is when I click on the thesaurus and find another way to say something I’ve said before, and paint things up a bit. One writing instructor called this part “adding sparkle chips.”

I know you are active n MWA. Any plans to teach a class with MWA University? There are lots of us who would sign right up!

You really are a peach, aren’t you Kate — thinking I should teach a class in writing. Nice idea, very flattering, but I don’t believe MWA would agree. My books are not eligible for their awards, nor I can sell them at MWA events. In some cases, I can’t even attend as an author. I’m not grousing — my publisher is new and MWA has rules — but I think MWA would like to limit my activities to attending events and paying dues. I really appreciate your saying that, however. Thank you.

Now three things I ask everyone that have nothing to do with writing or your book:

What is your favorite food? Deep fried beef tacos. Anything Mexican is a close second.

What is your favorite TV show? Justified on FX. The producer Graham Yost has done just what he said he wanted to do — put Elmore Leonard stories on television.

What is your favorite music? I grew up listening and dancing to rockabilly, so give me three major chords and a dance beat, watch me go. Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Bowen, and Elvis shaped my life for years. Sun Records Rules!

Thank you so much for showing up yourself this time. Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers before you go?

I want to thank people for taking the time to read my work. For most writers this is all we really want — for readers to be entertained by our efforts — and so often we never find out if our plan worked. I spent so many years being rejected by agents and publishers, so many words written that have never been read, I find now myself overwhelmed with the number of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. There are millions of books to read these days, but I can see people are in fact giving me a chance. It’s wonderful. And thank you.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

TFA is Such a Liar

Surprise, surprise. The Famous Author is on another blog tour, spouting off to anyone who'll listen about our books -- The Austin Carr Mystery Series -- and as usual he's telling some really tall tales. Read what he told Mystery Playground, a top-notch blog on crime novels. They asked TFA a few great questions, told him to include a picture of his research. The blog, which has a great Facebook page, too, went ahead and used the shot he sent them -- taken a few years ago of a book shop in Rome.

That TFA is a terrible liar. (Here's the Q & A from MP:)

1) Where did you get the idea for BIG MONEY?

It's one of those crazy true stories, so strange it can't be used in fiction. In 1979 my future wife and I fly back to New Jersey. Her brother is getting married and it's a chance for me to meet her family. We arrive at her house late and it's not until the following morning I meet her father. He's at the breakfast table, reading the paper. He's pretty gruff, gets up and leaves after he finishes whatever story he's reading. I wonder why he doesn't like me until I see the newspaper story -- it's about HIM, front page, my future father in law having refused in court the day before to point out two gangsters. The federal prosecutors played a tape recorded conversation -- quoted in the newspaper -- in which my future father-in-law is extorted for money. Are these the guys who threatened your life, the prosecutor asked my father in court. "I can't be sure," he said. Now deceased, my father in law was a pretty tough character. Tough, but not stupid.

2) You used to be a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. How did that job inform your fiction writing?

Being a reporter can mean different things, but for me, back then, it meant I wrote stories every day, mostly all day. I wrote stories while I talked to people on the telephone. I combined AP, UPI, and press release copy into one short coherent business section piece. I wrote one hundred words for the front page when the stock market rallied or crashed. I wrote stories on extreme deadline, an editor yanking the whole sheet of paper from my typewriter after each paragraph. Bottom line, I put close to two million words on paper in my newspaper career. It taught me to write.

3) What’s the story you worked on at The L.A. Times that you are the most proud of?

Most of your readers probably won't remember, but right after U.S. President Gerald Ford declared his War on Inflation in the mid-1970s, my editors asked me to survey the nation's top economists, find out if the President's plan had a chance. I spent much time and energy researching, discovered that the Vietnam War, the creation of OPEC and the resulting surge in oil prices meant our economy was doomed for many more years of fast-rising prices. It was a feature story, but the editors liked it so much (and Mondays are slow news days), my economics piece was the newspaper's top story -- banner headline on the front page. The prediction implied in the story's hook turned out to be true: Inflation didn't peak for five years. But what I am most proud of is that when I arrived at work that morning, the headline writer came to my desk and apologized. He had used virtually the whole first paragraph of my story for his headline, taking a bit of punch from the story opening, but making me feel like a million-dollar wordsmith. He couldn't write a tighter, catchier headline than six of the eight words I'd given him. The War on Inflation is Over. We Lost

4) Are there any photos you can share from your research? 

I collected quite a few books and other material in researching and producing BIG MONEY. This photo is just one corner of my garage:

(See Above) Ha ha