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

Saturday, March 1, 2014

This Redhead Left No Stone Unturned

Emily Jean "Emma" Stone is a twenty-six-year-old American actress and model, born in Scottsdale, Arizona, to parents who own the Camelback Golf Club. She lived on the grounds from the age of twelve.

Stone was home schooled for two years while appearing in productions at Valley Youth Theatre, including The Princess and the Pea, Alice in Wonderland, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and performed with the theater's improv comedy troupe.

Stone's low-pitched husky voice comes from frequent screaming as an infant, resulting in the development of nodules. Hey, I read it in Wikipedia.

Stone is naturally blonde. She won her first role as a teenager after dyeing her hair dark brown. Judd Apatow, the producer of Superbad, then had Stone dye her hair from dark brown to red for her role in the film. And that's good enough for me.

 Stone made her feature film debut in the comedy Superbad (2007) with Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, directed by Greg Mottola. Stone co-starred with Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Michael Douglas in the romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009), a takeoff of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, directed by Mark Waters.

Stone also co-starred with Jeff Daniels, Ryan Reynolds and Lisa Kudrow in Kieran and Michelle Mulroney's comedy Paper Man.

Stone co-starred with Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn in the crime drama film Gangster Squad, directed by Ruben Fleischer and based on a true story set in the 1940s.

In May 2013, it was announced that Stone had signed on to co-star in Woody Allen's comedy Magic in the Moonlight with Colin Firth, set in the 1920s on the French Riviera.

Thanks to Emily, Arizona, and Wikipedia.