Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

TFA's Robert Crais Interview

Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1956, Robert Crais moved to Hollywood at the age of 23 to write television drama, including scripts for Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, MIami Vice, and L.A. Law. His first novel, The Monkey’s Raincoat, was published in 1987, won Anthony and Macavity awards, and featured the still-popular duo of private investigator Elvis Cole and his ex-cop, ex-marine sidekick Joe Pike.
In addition to the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike stories, Mr. Crais has written four stand alone novels, Demolition AngelThe Two-Minute Rule, Hostage, which was made into a feature film starring Bruce Willis, and the new Suspect featuring a canine hero.
Mr. Crais’s work is sometimes criticized for the gritty violence and his shoot’em up endings, but his legion of fans appreciates both. Moreover, at the heart of this series is the relationship between Elvis and Joe — a caring, emotional, and fascinating bond that evolves with each book. All of Mr. Crais’s novels center on crime, of course, but the underlying theme I find again and again is mankind’s need and search for love. Over the internet two years ago, RC and The Famous Author talked about this relationship, what Mr. Crais would like to ask Ernest Hemingway, and why his popular crime series is unlikely to ever reach a movie screen. This Q & A originally ran in Spinetingler Magazine. I like to drag it out once in a while because TFA's a big fan of Crais. He'll read it, work a little harder on my stories.
Jack Getze: To me, the Elvis/Joe series just gets better and better, but I wonder if you still find the series fun and challenging to write? Are you doing what you want to do? Alternating between the series and stand-alones?
Robert Crais: The challenge is part of the fun. I enjoy these guys, and enjoy writing about them, but the current books are much more challenging than the earlier books. That’s a good thing. Am I alternating? Maybe, but I don’t see it that way. The real problem is finding the time to write everything I want to write. So I have all these ideas for Elvis Cole novels, but I also have ideas for Joe Pike novels, and novels about other characters, and standalones. I’d love to write about Max Holman again, the ex-bank bandit from The Two Minute Rule, but I can’t find the time.
JG: Do you have a writing routine? Certain time, special place, or can you write anywhere anytime? What’s on the desk with you when you write?
RC: I have a routine, but it’s changed over time. I tend to start early, but that’s changed a bit the past couple of years. Now, I’m getting more done toward the end of the day, which used to be a ‘death zone’ for me. I have an office at home, which is where I usually work, but I can write anywhere, and do. Airplanes, Starbucks, whatever. All I need is my laptop, and my note cards.

JG: Who are your writing heroes?
RC: Hemingway and Chandler. Hammett and Salinger. Ross Macdonald, Robert Heinlein. I have diverse literary interests. Stan Lee and Elmore Leonard. I could go on.
JG: What’s one question you would like to ask a dead one?
RC: For real? If Hemingway was alive, I’d love to find out he’s read my books. Then, knowing he’s read them, I’d hook up with him in a bar down in Key West or up in Idaho, or maybe we’d be out fishing on his boat, the Pilar, just the two of us, and I’d ask this: I’d say, “Papa, what am I doing wrong? How can I make my work better?” Imagine that. Imagine getting that kind of insight from Ernest Hemingway. Wow.
JG: Where and how did you begin to learn your craft?
RC: Writers are readers first, and I was a voracious reader as a kid. Reading, watching movies and TV. That’s when I began absorbing the elements of story-telling. Had to be. Then, later in junior high when I first started writing, I began by mimicking the writers I admired. I must have written my own version of Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” a dozen times, maybe two dozen! I went through a Ray Bradbury period, where everything sounded like Bradbury. A Harlan Ellison period. Writing short stories, being rejected—all of those experiences were the learning curve, and that curve led to now.
JG: Do you start with an idea, an outline, a single idea? What’s your process?
RC: I always start with some sort of emotional sense of a character. For The Watchman, this was Larkin Conner Barkley driving a hundred miles an hour through LA with her eyes closed, crying. Her pain hooked me immediately. For The Two Minute Rule, it was Max Holman’s moment of confused loss when he learns his son was murdered on the very day Holman was being released from prison. These are the moments that hook me, after which I develop an outline.
JG: I’ve read you won’t sell the film rights to the Elvis novels? Why would you ignore such a huge promotion for the books. Could the right producer/director change your mind?
RC: Maybe I’m just stubborn, but I’ve been saying no for twenty years, so I still own the rights to Elvis and Joe, and owning those rights makes me happy. You ask why I would ignore such a “huge” promotion as if some kind of Dennis Lehane-like promotion was automatic—it isn’t, and the odds against it approach certainty. Ask Larry Block how much Burglerpromoted his books, or if Blood Work sold the ass off Mike’s back list, or, hey, ask that guy who wrote Hostage if the film sold a ton of his books. It didn’t. Listen, maybe one day I’ll change my mind—none of us know what the future will bring—but I’ve had plenty of ‘real world’ experiences with Hollywood, and none of them have left me anxious for more.
JG: How do you decide which story to tell next? Gut, fans, the publisher — which has the most influence?
RC: Gut. I go with my instincts. Like I said earlier, I have more ideas than time to write them, so I have to go with what’s most important and moving to me. Always have.
JG: What’s your biggest fear as a writer?
RC: Hm, probably that I’ll grow tired of it. Writing is a war fought by inches. On an emotional level, writing is a tough, ugly way to make a living. You have to man-up every day. The day I get tired of it, I’ll probably quit, then what would I do?
JG: What gives you the most satisfaction about being a writer?
RC: The small things. When I’m writing, and I’m in the zone, and I write something that moves me so deeply my eyes fill and I start to cry. That’s why I write. That’s why I do this every day. For moments like that.
JG: Where did Elvis Cole come from? You’ve said he expresses your world view, but he’s more than just you, right? Is the rest imagination, or did you pull things from a real private eye?
RC: A ‘private eye’ is a job, not a person. No meaningful percentage of my audience reads these things because of Elvis Cole, the PI. They read them because of Elvis Cole, the person. I would say the same about Myron Bolitar and Easy Rawlins and Kinsey Milhone and the rest of super-popular characters. Who these characters are as people is why readers embrace them. Having said that, Elvis is WAY better and more lovable than me! Ha. He started with my basic world views, sure, but then I fictionalized him. I made him the man I would find interesting, and moving, and would most want to be if I could. If Elvis Cole were real, I’d love to hang out with him, watch the Dodgers, cook out on his deck and have a couple of beers. Most of my readers probably feel the same way.
JG: My wife says that the Elvis/Pike series is really a love story between the two men — platonic, of course, but a love story. How much they care about each other is an important part of each story. What would you say to her, or can you comment on this “love story” idea?
RC: I guess I would agree with her to a point. Part of the appeal here is the portrait of their friendship, and how they depend upon each other. I don’t think this is the end-all-and-be-all of the series, but I do think it’s part of the draw. I’m a big believer in the ‘buddy concept.’ Butch & Sundance, Thelma & Louise, Batman & Robin, Crockett & Tubbs—we could name the buddy pairings for days. Point is, something in us as human beings responds to this. We are group animals. We want to have friends. We want to have someone at our back when the sun goes down, and the brush starts to rustle. The relationship between Elvis and Joe speaks to these things. Affirms them.
JG: Your stories deal with social issues, but do you think a good novel HAS to? Can’t a character’s internal choices speak volumes about our society, about men and women in general?
RC: For me, a good novel means a novel I enjoy. A good novel has to have subtext of some kind, though that subtext doesn’t necessarily have to be about hit-you-over-the-head social issues—it can be something as simple and universal as, say, friendship, since you used that example. I just enjoy novels where the characters and the writing have a certain depth—to me, that’s good writing. Sometimes, the very best novels, and the very best writing, occur when that stuff is invisible. It might be there. It might be in the writer’s heart, and in the building blocks of the characters, but it’s invisible. Like the best film editing. You never notice–and you shouldn’t notice–the very best film editing, yet editing can make or break a film. If a story isn’t about something, then all you have is episode nine of a crappy TV series. Jesus, who wants to read that? No one.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

TFA Explains Why I'm Always in Trouble

The big thing about living in a truck-mounted camper, you bump your head a lot. So when Chef Cruz startles me awake with repeated loud knocks, I crack my skull against the tin headliner for the third time in two days. Maybe I need a crash helmet.

“You cannot do the sleep in our parking lot, Austin.”

I rub my sore head and peek through the camper’s wallet-size plastic rear window. Either it’s still dark outside or my brain is beginning to swell.

“I say this a hundred times.” Cruz shouts. “You do not listen. So now I say this...if you use our parking spaces for the bedroom again, I will rat you to the federales.”

Cruz certainly has an edge on him this morning. Central New Jersey being so much colder than his former home near Vera Cruz, Mexico, I suspect it’s the fall weather. Most cool days he doesn’t even bother coming outside, let alone threaten police action. Wait until New Jersey sees some snow.

I open the back door and give Chef Cruz the famous, full-boat Carr grin. “Speaking of rats, amigo, can I shower in the employee dressing room?”

Why is divorced dad Austin Carr -- that’s me – waking up in a beat-up camper, parked on someone else’s private property? Let me take you to the 'Splaining Department: My alimony and child support payments were established by New Jersey’s family court system during times considerably more lucrative – like when my income was double -- and for the last two years I have failed to earn my legally mandated monthly nut. I’ve had my savings drained, my Maxima repossessed, and my visiting rights suspended. I bought my twelve-year-old Chevy pick-up with the rusty camper for $800 last month because another landlord tossed my butt in the street.

This is not a great life, especially not being able to visit my kids. What really are fathers for? And being the main character in a mystery series, I’ve always wanted to personally harass this bozo author Jack Getze who made my life one disaster after another. Finally, thanks to Dru’s Book Musings (where a version of this amalgamation of novel and interview first appeared), I have been given the opportunity. Look out, Getze, whom his family and I call The Famous Author (TFA) because he is so NOT.

Austin:   I understand a character like myself wasn’t really born, omniscient one, but where exactly did I come from? And why stick me with a silly name like Austin Carr?

TFA: You are a product of my distaste for a certain environment – telephone sales as experienced inside a third-rate investment company on the Jersey Shore. The people were nice, the primary product municipal bonds a decent investment, but this joint was as far from Wall Street as the University of California at Berkeley. I wanted a slightly shady character who succeeded with his mouth and his charm, not his fists, and I created him from a room full of guys on the telephone, pleading and begging for a sale.

A: I’m shady?
T: You break rules and regulations for that rich pretty redhead, remember?

A: What about the name?
T: Your name is a fluke. I thought I made it up, but turns out Austin Carr is a famous basketball player from the 1970s and 80s. All-American for Notre Dame. First overall draft pick. Still has a radio show about basketball in the Midwest. I would never say this in front him -- a six-foot-ten athlete -- but I was looking for something a little silly, and my brain must have regurgitated Austin Carr from the old basketball headlines. Luckily, names are like titles when it comes to books.

A: Do you make a lot of mistakes?
T: At least one bad error a day. Agreeing to let you ask me questions was obviously today’s.

A: And which day was the mistake made about me being a stockbroker? After the market crashes of 2001, and 2008-09, the Wall Street-led surge in joblessness, how on earth did you imagine a series with a broker protagonist might work?
T: Pretty dumb, huh? Refusing to read my manuscript, I’ve heard editors actually laugh at the idea. One said in an email she’d be fired if she bought any manuscript with a stockbroker protagonist. The thing is, Austin, telephone securities sales was something this writer knew well – and more than that, something I wanted to write about. Working on 100% commission is a terrible way to give financial advice, but funny in application because of the people involved, and symbolic of our system’s worst parts. Also, of course, I wanted to cause you the most suffering.

A: Suffering? Gee, what a nice guy. Do you mistreat animals?
T: I love animals. I have a dog named Maddy, a cat named Miss Kitty, and I carry spiders outside on a sheet of paper. But you, sir, are a fictional character, and good fiction is about conflict. My job as a writer is to work you over, scare you, test you by putting you in difficult situations, all the while entertaining our readers. Don’t worry, you handle everything -- everything except that giant bluefin at the climax.

A: Did you tell Dru BIG NUMBERS is not exactly a cozy?
T. I sent her a copy.

A. That’s not the same thing. Maybe you’d better describe the parts of BIG NUMBERS that stick out a little from that cozy mold. Ha ha.
T. The three sex scenes are played for laughs – and short, like my real life. People actually die on the page, but the violence is minimal and not gory. There are a handful of four-letter words scattered throughout because I refuse to have a low-life criminal say, “Oh, fudge.” It’s almost a cozy.

A. Almost a cozy? Are you kidding me? Your new book description on Amazon says, “Root for divorced dad Austin Carr, a lovable, oversexed scamp who'll use anything and everything to get his kids back. Think Bugs Bunny with guns and a penis.”
T. That's been changed now. Jeez. I’m so glad I agreed to this interview. You’re killing me, Austin. Killing me! But honestly, you’re the one who’s always thinking about sex, making suggestive remarks, falling in love with every redhead you meet. Why can’t you grow up?

A. Me? You’re the one who writes this stuff. I’m a fictional character!
T. OK, that’s it. I’m out of here.


Former Los Angeles Times reporter Jack Getze is Fiction Editor for Anthony nominated Spinetingler Magazine, one of the internet's oldest websites for noir, crime, and horror short stories. His screwball mysteries, BIG NUMBERS, BIG MONEY, and BIG MOJO are being published this year and next by Down and Out Books. His short stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp, Passages, and mostly recently, The Big Adios. He lives in New Jersey and makes his own tacos.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Cover Blues

TFA's friend did this one (#1) for us, and while I thought the image was too vague, TFA liked the colors.

Then The Famous Author decided book two needed a funny cover because so many of his reviews on Goodreads mention laughing at me -- Austin. TFA ran a contest on 99 design and came up with #2.

Then the Down and Out Book artist used the funny theme in three different cover patterns (#3)


This morning, TFA and I are very confused. Shouldn't (like Eric said last month) all the covers of series have a similar look to them. Do any of the above look like BIG NUMBERS?

TFA and I have the book cover blues. All comments, ideas, encouragements would be appreciated in comments.

Monday, October 21, 2013

TFA Spills Beans to Omnimystery News

Omnimystery News had some questions for The Famous Author the other day. Here's what the boss managed to blurt out between glasses of cheap white wine:

Omnimystery News: Why did you choose to create a recurring series character for your books?

Jack Getze: I've focused on writing a series since falling in love with John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee stories. Series novels are still my favorite books, with Robert Crais' Joe and Elvis atop the current list. As a writer, I'd love to create characters like that — people readers want to hang out with, join on adventures. My character — Austin Carr — is a bit challenged in the hero department, especially during this first novel, but he will improve over the series.

In Big Numbers, he talks like a teenager about sex, has a questionable moral compass, and acts impulsively — in a word, childish. But these shortcomings — and the way he exhibits them — will make most readers laugh, and in the end, his transgressions primarily reflect his desperation over losing contact with his children. In future books, Austin needs to, and will, grow up. With his own kids getting older, presenting more problems for him as a parent, he'll need to be better. No worry. Austin's kids are his biggest treasure so I'm confident he'll succeed in reaching complete adulthood. In fact, I'll make sure he does. Ha. It could take a few books, though. Unlike some others, my character improves from book to book, learning about life and himself.

OMN: We introduced Big Numbers as a screwball mystery. Would you agree with that description?

JG: Yes. Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, Tom Dorsey and Lisa Lutz are the best known, at least to me, in this area. There's mystery, crime, and suspense in this kind of novel, but also a major element of wackiness — with the characters, the situation, constant quips, and/or a combination. The reader is supposed to laugh along with the suspense and mystery. It's entertainment first and foremost, but all of the writers mentioned (and my own work) strive to be more, to offer insight into human behavior, or — Hiaasen especially — pointed social comment. Humor is what sets the sub-genre apart, though, and when I think of Hiaasen, I first remember his villain who lost a hand to a pet barracuda, but rallied by fitting his rebuilt arm to accommodate various attachments — scissors, saws, and even a weed-whacker. That's screwball. Hiaasen's books are darker than Evanovich, and mine lean that way as well. Evanovich qualifies in the cozy sub-genre, too, I think, as there is no blood or sex on the page. Carl and I like to fool around with both, although I'd say we play sex scenes for giggles, and the violence is tame, sometimes even laughable (in a mystery book sort of way). I'm going to stop comparing myself to Carl Hiaasen now. He's the greatest, my favorite. I'm a wannabe.

I think most labeling of novels is good for the reader — and maybe the writer, too. The reader wants to know what she's buying, and labels help. Writers need to understand readers have different tastes, and if authors want the right kind of reader to find them, to try their work, they should fulfill at least some of those particular expectations. I believe most readers understand no author is exactly like another — that each experience will be different. But I also think people find some things very un-entertaining and want to be warned.

OMN: Give us a synopsis of Big Numbers in a tweet.

JG: Root for divorced dad Austin Carr, a funny, oversexed scamp who'll do anything to get his kids back. Think Bugs Bunny with guns and a penis.

OMN: Given the "screwball" element of the story, are any of the events in the book based on real life?

JG: Almost everything in the book came from real life. Giant bluefin tuna pulling men off fishing boats; stockbrokers marrying the widow of a big client; a friend living in his car to make alimony and child support payments; a customer threatening a broker after a junk hospital bond defaulted; my own boss calling me into his office — the 'splaining department. These are all things I found interesting or funny — if not shocking — at the time, and since I'm a former journalist, recording events easily turned into fiction. Being the youngest child and desperate for attention, so does trying to make people laugh through exaggeration. During my second career as a bond salesman, I soaked up what I saw and heard around a couple of third-rate Jersey Shore investment firms, then ran those previously described real events and others through my personal sense of humor and imagination, stuck that sausage into the skin of a funny mystery.

OMN: Is there a particular city that influences how you depict your setting?

JG: Like my series character Austin Carr, I married into a family from the Red Bank, New Jersey area and moved there from southern California. I found the environment beautiful — green, watery, and full of wildlife compared to Los Angeles — but also harsh, in the sense people didn't seem as friendly or as easy going. I must have complained once in earshot my wife's Italian grandmother, Angelina, who pulled me aside to tell me a story. When she was a young girl during Prohibition, she said the frozen Navesink River bordering downtown Red Bank often harbored rum-running ice boats on winter nights, and huge gunfights were common — hours of shooting, with dead bodies on the ice at sunrise. "Nobody ever called the cops," Angelina said. "In Red Bank, you gotta have the hard face — faccia rozzo." I think that story is the very essence of my Branchtown, New Jersey, this idea that the east coast is different than the west coast — a bigger melting pot, more history, closer living, tougher, and harder-won success. I don't know if it's true of not, but it was my experience — and I've made this Austin's experience, too, because, true or not, the perceived difference makes his take on life and people unique.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Did He Go Too Far Calling Carr Noir?

In the name of fun, publicity, and making new friends, The Famous Author (TFA) stretched the boundaries of common sense late last summer by reading from my second adventure at Noir @ Bar in New York.

In noir stories, somebody famous once said, the protagonist starts out screwed then gets screwed worse. Think DOUBLE INDEMNITY, where the hero -- in both printed and movie versions -- begins by planning a murder but ends up dead himself. In that sense, my stories are far from noir. Like Bugs Bunny, I always win -- me and mine finish every story in better shape than we started. Perhaps even more telling, my stories are written for laughs. Noir is not laughs, is it?

But the cover blurb from T.J. MacGregor says "Darkly comic," and indeed any Austin Carr story contains violent odd death, covert sex, and illegal financial transactions by every single character, including bellhops, cabbies, cops, and the protagonist, me. Less than enthusiastic reviewers have called Austin a disgraced con man, a phony, a jerk, and a heartless, macho-creep, bastard. Now THERE is some noir, people, although I don't think the guys and gals at Noir @ Bar would necessarily appreciate similar comments about their characters.

I don't know if this is enough controversy to make book-club ladies argue happily over the evil or good inside Austin Carr, but there is one question making TFA shake his head, drink, and talk to himself in total confusion. It's not the old noir vs. non-noir query either, but rather what kind of cover should DOWN AND OUT BOOKS put on the reissue of my second adventure, BIG MONEY?

Should the cover be dark and dangerous -- noirish -- like the blue cover for BIG NUMBERS? Green and eerie as in artist and film director Roman White's proposed background shown here? Or maybe bright, sunny, and funny like the yellow one TFA commissioned last week?

What say you, blog readers? At the top right there's a poll to pick which one you like best. TFA and I would love some comments, too. Free books could be involved, maybe a ride in Ron Howard's big limo to the movie premier...or maybe Roman White's.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Butch Edgerton --The Lion of Noir

Somewhere in Indiana this morning, the sun still low in the sky and the church crowd getting ready for a sermon, Leslie H. (Butch) Edgerton's wife Mary is trying to get The Lion of Noir into the family Ford. The train station is not crowded, quiet except for Les's roaring and growling. Three nights in Albany, New York, holding court at Bouchercon, has seriously pissed him off.

"That --------  can't write for ----, and he makes more money than God."

Mary pats his shoulder and tells him it will be all right. His time for the big bucks can't be far away.

"That ------ knows dick about prisons and prisoners. Nothing!"

Mary hands him a hot cup of coffee with one sugar and a dab of cream. He sips and tells Mary about a publishing story he heard the day before from another writer.

"If that son-of-a-bitch had done that to me, I would have ------- killed him."

Mary knows he'll be better by the time the coffee is finished. He met a lot of friends and really enjoyed himself at Bouchercon 2013, but he's not at his best in the morning. In fact, she can tell her proximity is already improving his mood. For The Lion of Noir, home with Mary is always a better place.

"What's for breakfast," he says. "The food was awful."

Les is the author of wonderful books, including HOOKED, a writer's guide for producing readable fiction, and his latest novels, THE RAPIST and THE BITCH. With titles like that, you know it's not going to be about the laughs. Les lived a hard, brutal, and -- much earlier -- slightly wicked life. He knows what Noir is about: For most people, life doesn't have many happy endings.

Writers know Les's work is the stuff of great literature. More of the world might know it too if Les didn't fight so hard for his art. Those two titles above were not the first pick of publishers, but Les said they were the titles if you want to publish them. On the verge of signing with a Very Big Agent a few years ago, Les walked away because she made him wait too long. He loves writing. He loves writers. And he thinks they are preyed on.

But you agents, editors, and marketing people better not prey on Les.

He'll ------- kill you.

P.S. --  Les called me and said I made him look a little harsh. Maybe I did forget about how many people love this generous, giving, intelligent man, or how many younger writers he's guided, pushed, and extolled to the publishing world. But that's only after he's had his morning coffee. ac

P.P.S. -- Of course I was too harsh. It's what I do -- exaggerate. Les is one of the kindest, most gregarious men I've ever spent time with. He makes new friends wherever he travels, including TFA  five or six years ago at a Kentucky writer's retreat. TFA said if I didn't straighten out the record, he was killing me off. ac

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I thought I Was a Smooth Talker

You have to love The Famous Author. The man will say or do ANYthing to gain publicity for the rebirth of our series. I know this is a good thing for me, Austin Carr, as being TFA's fictional character, protagonist of the Austin Carr Mystery Series, my life rests on his eventual success. It's just that sometimes he cracks me up going overboard.

Making the local hair stylist rich (see two posts ago) and spamming his AOL account to earn a MailChimp suspension, for instance, seemed definitely over the top. But this latest truth-stretching adventure tops all previous.

TFA convinced the famed cozy-fiction blogger Dru Love that BIG NUMBERS -- my first screwball mystery adventure, in which at least five people die and the sexy redheaded widow asks Austin to tie her up -- was worthy of a guest spot on her well-read blog. Over 1300 followers. TFA must have hypnotized the lovely Ms. Love during a chance encounter at Deadly Ink earlier this month.

He told Dru and her audience BIG NUMBERS was "almost a cozy." Almost a cozy? The above picture shows TFA reading Austin Carr at Noir at the Bar in New York City last week. I guarantee you TFA was not talking about his series being almost a cozy. And yet TFA tells Dru's audience the sex scenes in BIG NUMBERS "are played for laughs -- and short, like my life."

But I pretty much nailed him during the interview at Dru's. All I had to do was recite the opening line of his Amazon and Nook promotional copy: "Root for divorced dad Austin Carr, a funny, oversexed scamp who'll use anything and everything to get his kids back. Think Bugs Bunny with guns and a penis."

You think TFA's desperate flailings will keep us from drowning?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Take Your Hooptedoodle and Shelve It

The Famous Author is still in mourning, unable to write or even talk much about the death of Elmore Leonard. He never met the man, but I know TFA is seriously upset he'll never get to read another of his favorite author's tales. Elmore should have been nearly done with his latest -- rumored to be titled BLUE DREAMS -- so maybe the boss has one left.

TFA might not know it, but another reason he loved EL was because Elmore Leonard's body of work helped my boss understand that characters tell the story, not authors. Authors -- Elmore explained through his novels and his own stated "rules" of craft -- are strictly banned from appearing in fiction.

Leonard also liked to warn about dialogue tags -- nothing but said -- and cautioned about detailed descriptions -- most readers skip them. But from my point of view -- Austin Carr's take on this -- I'd have to say my favorite Leonard rule is this: If it sounded like writing, Elmore rewrote it.

The literary school probably hates that quote. I'm not sure, I don't know many writers who think fiction is all about the words, the "hooptedoodle," as Leonard called it. But I don't have to deal with those people anyway, as humor REALLY sucks to them. I'm glad it's TFA who must run around in the diverse world of writers, some of whom believe Elmore's a hack crime writer. (Those turkeys need a punch in the nose.) But mostly, I'm pleased, glad and grateful TFA understands enough of Elmore's craft to let me tell the tale.

Thanks, Elmore. Bet you're making up a story right now.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Famous Author Exposed!

Maybe the main character in a man's work of fiction shouldn't be taking potshots at the boss -- biting the hand that feeds, etc. -- but don't you think it's time The Famous Author (TFA) got himself a new promotional photo? Recent photographs taken in New Brunswick, by none other than Rosemary Harris, make the photo TFA uses now look like they were taken of his son.

TFA's seven-year-old photograph adorns the wall here somewhere, I'm sure, but just in case you missed it: Here's what TFA thinks he looks like up there on the right --

Okay, are you ready? Here's the shot (left) taken earlier this month at a party prior to Deadly Ink, New Jersey's own mystery conference for fans and local authors. This is how the old geezer really appears -- oh, and notice the relaxed dress, the way he really outfits in summer.

I'm trying not to laugh, boss, honest. But are you kidding with this? It's time to stop visiting the beauty parlor before every convention and personal appearance. You're old. Be proud you made it this far. And be happy that I -- your own creation -- have exposed your true self to the world. You need this new photo.

And dude, where is your hair?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Luckily, Hank Phillippi Ryan is Not a Redhead

So The Famous Author (TFA) took me to that Deadly Ink Mystery Conference this weekend. I'm sure TFA had a great time meeting all the authors, listening to the exciting panels and speakers. Me, a stockbroker, I didn't do much but listen to Hank Phillippi Ryan.

If you don't know Hank (She told me her real name is Harriet), you are definitely NOT a big mystery fan. An investigative reporter for Boston's NBC affiliate by day, Hank is one of Mysterydom's biggest stars, the best-selling author of five mystery novels, winner of the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark awards.

TFA bought me a paperback of last year's best seller by Hank, THE OTHER WOMAN, and I'm going to get started as soon as I finish writing this blog. The new one, THE WRONG GIRL comes out next month, but you can put your name on the list for one now. You can read more about these two books, Hank's other novels, and her career on Hank's website.

Skip the literature. I'd rather talk about Hank. She is very pretty. She's also smart, elegant, stylish, and undeniably in charge of us assembled masses. She saw me listening, peeking out of TFA's briefcase at her, so she came over later to shake my hand, tell me I was a funny guy. Luckily, Hank is not a redhead. I did not fall in love.


Friday, July 5, 2013

An Author of Style and Substance

Not TFA, are you kidding? I'm talking about James Rollins, the man standing in front of his author transportation system. Look at that bus! Is that cool, or what? James doesn't fly around the country, dodging security agents, losing luggage, flailing for taxis and shuttles, waiting in airports. Like Tim McGraw and a hundred country stars, not to mention the old rock n' roll tours made famous my Motown, James travels from book event to book event in his own bus.

"By the way, I’m typing this blog aboard a tour bus somewhere between Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas," Rollins told the Jungle Red Writers blog today. "It’s been an interesting means of conducting a book tour.  Rather than flying from place to place, I get to see a bit more of the country, and it allows me to hit smaller towns and venues, which has been a great deal of fun."

Check out the whole story at JRW if you like. Sounds like a great new book by James, too. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dr. Who's Redhead of the Week

Twenty-six-year-old Karen Sheila Gillan played Amy Pond in the British science fiction series Doctor Who. Born and raised in Inverness, Scotland, Gillan's television career included guest appearances on several dramas, her first steady role being a two-year stint on the sketch comedy series The Kevin Bishop Show. On that series, she played multiple characters, as well as celebrities such as Katy Perry and Angelina Jolie.

Gillan also appeared on TV in a leading role in a horror project entitled The Well, which was broadcast as a series of episodic short films on BBC Two, and then later also as a web series on BBC.co.uk. Part of the BBC's multimedia "switch" programming, the short episodes interconnect with online games that further explore the environments presented in the series.

She was cast for the role of the Eleventh Doctor's first companion, Amy Pond, on the British sci-fi series Doctor Who in May 2009. She made her first on-screen appearance as Amy Pond in "The Eleventh Hour" with her cousin Caitlin Blackwood portraying a young Amelia (Amy) Pond.

Gillan made her first theatre appearance playing the role of Shirley in John Osborne's play Inadmissible Evidence along with Douglas Hodge. The play debuted at the Donmar Warehouse on 16 October 2011.

In December 2011, it was announced Gillan and Arthur Darvill would be leaving Doctor Who during the seventh series in 2012.

Gillan is to star in a supernatural horror pic called Oculus cast in the lead role and filmed in Alabama. She also been cast in a film titled ' The List, ' set to begin filming in Los Angeles soon.

Thanks to Karen and Wikipedia

Thursday, June 13, 2013

ESPN Mentions My Novel

OK, maybe I'm stretching things, but I think ESPN endorsed my first novel today. Check this out:

My main fantasy baseball man, Andrew McCutchen, hit 3-for-5 Wednesday night, knocking in three runs and scoring two himself against San Francisco. According to ESPN Fantasy News, McCutchen "is suddenly 8-for-14 in his last four games, and has his average up to .297. The reliable center fielder should continue putting up BIG NUMBERS as we get closer to the All-Star break."

To me, that's a clear five-star review if I ever read one.

Friday, May 31, 2013

My Official, Digital Return

It's been five years since the first and second Austin Carr Mysteries were published, half a decade since BIG NUMBERS and BIG MONEY both started and completed my series. The third story, BIG MOJO, was written but never published, "artistic differences" ending The Famous Author's publishing relationship. No one else stepped up in 2008 for a stockbroker protagonist.

They laughed, in fact. "My boss would fire me if a bought a story with a stockbroker protagonist," one editor told TFA. Talk about out of favor. Us weasel stockbrokers almost brought down the world in 2008 and 2009, filling the investment community with soon-to-be-worthless mortgage-backed bonds. Everyone hated us. They said you can't publish a series with a protagonist everyone wants to kill.

Which, of course, still may be the case with readers. But at last one brave publishing soul -- Eric Campbell of Down and Out Books -- has decided to take another chance on the wise-cracking, California-born, New Jersey transplant, who can't help falling in love with redheads every single episode. The publisher of Jon and Ruth Jordan's Crimespree Magazine, plus authors like Reed Farrell Coleman, Bill Moody, Gary Phillips, and others, Down and Out's Eric Campbell has told TFA all three of my adventures will be published in the coming months.

A fourth, BIG SHOES, is also finished and ready for Eric's eyeballs -- this event obviously predicated on some of you people actually buying a few copies of the first, second, and/or third. Hey, publishing is a business. And I warned you I'm a stockbroker.

How many copies of BIG NUMBERS can I send you?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

OMEX's Odyssey Explorer Heads for Treasure?

Treasure nuts like me watch MarineTraffic.com all the time, waiting for our treasurer hunters -- excuse me, archeologists -- to leave dock and find the loot. Well, it just happened this morning. The Odyssey Explorer left its dock in Hull, England with a destination marked as North Sea.

If you've been following the adventures of this hot tip, you know this means we've finally gotten approval -- oh, please! -- and are headed out to recoverer what we can of The HMS Victory.

If you'd like to follow OMEX's ship as she sails out today, click on this link to MarineTraffic's site.

We're going to hopefully bring up lots of gold (perhaps). Lot of cannon for sure.

Or maybe she's going out fishing. The company should make some kind of announcement shortly.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Manly Art of Overindulgence

It was Lobster Night at Clooney's in Branchtown last night, The Famous Author and his two sons celebrating something. That's Patrick up front, John in the middle, TFA blurry on the horizon.

We tried to find out what the excitement was all about -- besides Number One flying in from the Left Coast -- but TFA would confirm nothing.

I do believe it significant, however, that TFA is spending time on the blog with me. It's been a while since he really cared. Sniff.

Is it true that you should only eat shellfish in months that have an "R" in them?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pssst! Have I got a Hot Tip for You!

I really hope you don't go around taking investment advice from fictional stockbrokers, but if you're a gambler and a rambler (because you've lost all your money gambling on penny stocks) you might want to consider Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. That's OMEX for short, the company's N.A.S.D. market symbol.

According to Etrade, OMEX is "engaged in archaeologically sensitive exploration and recovery of deep-ocean shipwrecks worldwide. The Company employs technology, including side-scan sonar, magnetometers, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and other advanced equipment that enables the Company to locate shipwrecks and natural resource sites at depths."

That's right, I'm suggesting you might want to take a flyer on a treasure stock. Ha ha ha. I know. It's crazy. It probably won't work. I've owned this stock for more than ten years, and it's still worth only a few bucks. $3.26 was the close yesterday. I've made money on it over the years by selling when they've made a big announcement (They've actually brought up two big treasures) and then buying back when the stock gets cheap again. Once, back before the big stock crash in 2008, OMEX soared from $3 to $9 for a day when they unloaded tons of gold and silver from the infamous "Black Swan." That shipwreck turned out to be a Spanish warship, unfortunately, and OMEX had to give the whole treasure back when Spain beat them in a U.S. Court. That loss sent the stock back under $1.00. Yikes for all who held on for that ride. I started buying back a little early, but I got some at $1.50, too.

You have to sell when the good news hits. Like my genius trader boss taught me: Sell when the ducks are quacking.

So is the good news about to hit? Maybe. This ship you see here is call The HMS Victory. It was the pride of His Majesty's British Navy when it went down in 1744 in the English Channel. On board were two British Admirals, one of whom told his family and friends he would be collecting bounty for his retirement on his final voyage. Amsterdam newspapers later describe the payment of huge insurance premiums because of the gold on board when the ship sank. OMEX says this on their website: "Two of the greatest admirals in English history, Sir John Norris and Sir John Balchin called Victory their flagship. Research indicates that Balchin's Victory sank with a substantial amount of specie aboard."

Specie means money in the form of coin, not paper. No one knows for sure, that's the truth. OMEX has to go down and dig. After discovering the ship four or five years ago, it's taken all these years to work out a deal with British government, have the British public comment, and then receive the go-ahead for each step of the archaeological work and eventual recovery.

The final go-ahead is expected in April. OMEX's biggest and best ship, The Odyssey Explorer, is docked in Hull, England, waiting to slip out into the Channel. You can read more about The Victory and many other wreck sites at OMEX's website. http://www.shipwreck.net

Sunday, March 17, 2013

This is NOT the Cover of the New BIG NUMBERS

BRANCHTOWN, NJ -- March 17 -- It's still not official. The Famous Author can't say anything yet, not until his new publisher (Yay! Scream with joy!!!) gives TFA the approved, sanctioned, and definitive okay to announce a deal. But TFA told me he signed the offered contract and has mailed it in. Thus, TFA has dropped plans to self-publish. Roman White's startling cover will never see the light of day, though it could serve as inspiration for others.

Naturally, I -- Austin Carr, the man with a thousand excuses and a full-boat grin -- am about to turn zombie and rise from the grave. I know this is the third or fourth hint without naming a publisher. I don't expect anymore congratulations on what some must by now be assuming to be another of TFA's famous pipe dreams. It's okay. I know.

It's alive.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Moneyball Math Head Joins Sears Board

Like many of you, I'm a baseball fan, and last year the movie MONEYBALL really tickled my fancy. It was the story of this young Harvard grad who said on-base percentage was a better stat than batting average. By picking up unwanted guys all over the league with good on-base averages but little else, the Oakland A's became one of the best teams in baseball back in the day. True story. Much fun.

Here's another true story: that "kid" just got named to Sears's board of directors. Huh? Here's the press release:

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD) announced today the election of Paul DePodesta, vice president of player development and amateur scouting for the New York Mets, to membership on the Sears Holdings board of directors.

"We are pleased to add the strong analytical skills and talent assessment acumen of Paul DePodesta to our board of directors. As Sears Holdings continues the work of transforming and strengthening our company, we look forward to his leadership and contributions," said Sears Holdings Chairman Edward S. Lampert.

"Mr. DePodesta's ability to scrutinize data and use it to assess talent and drive execution makes him ideally suited to join our board."

Mr. DePodesta's unique approach in assembling Major League Baseball teams has transformed how teams evaluate, measure and value talent. Prior to joining the Mets, Mr. DePodesta was the executive vice president of the San Diego Padres, and the executive vice president and general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he became the third-youngest person to be named general manager in Major League history. Previously, he served as the assistant general manager of the Oakland Athletics and began his baseball career with the Cleveland Indians.

He graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in economics.

Mr. DePodesta's election increases the number of Sears Holdings' directors to eight