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Saturday, March 20, 2010

To what personal lengths to writers go to research their work?

When I wrote Blood on His Hands I was drawing on a lot of information that I already knew from personal experience, not just from my Appalachian Trail hike, but in building the two main male characters, Mike and Ian. There is a lot of me in both men, the good and the bad characteristics. I drew on knowledge of attending school as a foreign student, from the travel aspect to playing goalkeeper on the university soccer team. I drew upon my sons work experience on oil rigs and my own love of the movies and my intimate knowledge of Oklahoma, having resided in Oklahoma City for eighteen years.
The things I did not know, for instance details on guns, dead bodies and the Episcopal Church, I went to experts and asked questions. I sat down with a Catholic priest and asked for his reaction to the confession that would be given. Readers are intelligent and have questions and will catch you out if you are inaccurate. I had my first experience of sitting down with the Friends of the Library book club in Alamogordo NM in February and have them ask why and what for. I think I gave a good showing for my first ‘grilling’.

I am currently engrossed in writing what I hope is the first in a series of a planned five book set. The work is yet un-named however the plot is well scripted in my mind and vaguely outlined. I have my spiral bound note book with cardboard dividers and pockets to hold documents and have character and plot notes accumulating. So far I’m about a half dozen chapters in to the work. It is interesting to see how I am again writing of the familiar, the child of a preacher and using lots of poetic license. This time I am in a lot more unfamiliar territory. Having never been in a law enforcement job and writing about a police detective I am doing a lot more in the field research. I sat in a nine week course with the Oro Valley Citizens Academy, talking copious notes as a variety of officers described the routine of their duties, I drove with both the Pima County Sheriff around Three Points (a small town outside of Tucson) and with the Border Patrol down to the Mexican border town of Sasabe, AZ. I have witnessed a car burning in the desert and helped chase down illegal immigrants. Just as much hands on experience as prior books called for but more planning and less life experience. I have interviewed retired law enforcement officers to learn what border life was like back in the ’70’s and listened to first-hand knowledge of parties thrown in drug lords homes in Sonora.

My writing has suffered for the last three months or so while I made an attempt to promote Blood on His Hands by expending my energies into networking, attending book signings and festivals in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona but I feel the time is right to write. The figurative pen needs to hit the paper – I actually type straight into the computer – but you get the idea. I still have a couple of research projects to work on, but I have enough to move forward again with a renewed confidence in my abilities to get the story down in print and worry about the editing later. I am looking forward to creating the characters that have been running around in my mind for the last few months and letting them move and breathe and talk so I can find out what happens next.

Review: Mixed Blood by Roger Smith

Mixed Blood: A ThrillerIn Mixed Blood Smith has a way of taking the most obnoxious, despicable character and painting them in such a fashion that you find yourself rooting for them, all of them. As each main character is introduced, each one worse than the previous one, you are able to find some unbidden trait that makes you want to see them succeed. From Jack Burn, the American bank robber, hiding out in Cape Town under an assumed name, to Benny Mongrel the ex-jail-bird and long time gang-banger to the slime-ball, power hungry Boer cop Rudi Barnard, each one reels you in.
Jack's pregnant wife, coerced into his drama after the botched robbery, is wanting a divorce to move home and turn herself in. Benny has taken a real job and found a dog, the first thing he ever loved and is trying to stay on the straight and narrow. Rudi, for all the hard-nosed tactics he takes is just another Bible-thumping fat slob whose hemorrhoids ache and who never gets laid since his wife moved out. Something to feel for with each character, which makes the end result for each of them even more memorable.
This in-you-face gritty crime drama will keep you turning pages until the book is done and well worth the time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

promoting your self-published novel

I’ve got good news, you’ve been published, and the bad news is you’ve been published. This double-edged sword is what is presented to all authors. When you hear it for the first time, especially as a self-published novelist, you get that giddy feeling that finally I’m in print, and then the slow realization hits you. You are on your own.

For those of us that self-published, for what ever reason we did that, there is no agent, no publisher setting up book tours, signings, no eagerly waiting public lining up to buy your book. All that is left is whatever it is you do next. For an author public appearances are one of the great ways to be seen, to let the public put a face, and or a voice to the book. It’s all selling, something most of us writers are not specialists in. Ask me to tell you my story, easy. Ask me to write a three paragraph pitch to promote my book and I freeze.

No matter it has to be done. You have to approach the local book stores and sit and sign and talk to people. Happily I have found that if I can get a chance to pitch the book to the public I have had reasonable success. I’ve handed out my cards in restaurants – to people reading -  at the Nissan dealership when my car was in for repairs, in Target’s Garden center... all successfully concluded in a book sale.

I attended book festivals in Shawnee OK, Oro Valley AZ, and most recently in Tucson. From the Oklahoma show I was introduced to the Friends of the Library group from Alamogordo NM and drove back out weeks later to present myself to their book group who chose Blood on His Hands as their book-of-the-month for February. Each little bit of exposure brings realization that yes I have written a book, and it’s pretty damn good. I hear from people all over the world via Facebook that they like it too. So why are more copies not selling? My web page is full of wonderful reviews. Oh for an agent and a publisher to promote me on more than my little shoestring budget. I hooked up with Literary Partners Group at the Tucson Book Festival, a promotion company run my Andrew Greeley, who was helping several local authors by providing space to sell their books from, and he promoted the event on his AM radio show on local Tucson station The JOLT.

I keep looking for that one break, that someone with influence will read it and give me the blurb that everyone reads. I did manage to slip a copy to David Morrell after attending a workshop (pictured here) with him last week at the Tucson Book Festival. He was very gracious. I also managed to get a copy onto the hands of another writer idol, Jim Crace. Now I just hope that they have some down time and get to read it.

Until then, I am putting the promotional hat aside for a little while, and am commencing to write, as the new manuscript is calling. I’ll be right there!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Review: Dead In Their Tracks

Since 1540 attempting to traverse El Camino del Diablo, crossing the 4,100 square mile no-man's land, the borderlands in the Southwest corner of Arizona, stretching from Gila Bend to Yuma has proved to be a daunting task. This trail has proved to be one of the deadliest for illegal immigrants crossing over from Mexico to the 'promised land'.

So why then do these fearless young Mexican's take on the heat of Arizona's summers, attempting to cross the numerous desert basins and rugged mountain ranges, often without sufficient supplies of food or water? Annerino has been drawn to the outback of Arizona since a young man and joined up with a group of four migrants to document their trip as they saunter out in the rippling desert's mirages in an effort to find jobs in America in order to provide a better life for the young families they leave behind. They come in search of the jobs that most American's abhor - picking lettuce or watermelon in fields, working twelve-hour days to earn a few dollars.

Traveling with these migrant workers, sharing their journey, water and food Annerino writes a fascinating tale of their failed attempt, and documenting the shared journey that is tracked by La Migra, the maligned border patrol who often find themselves in the role of the rescuer, putting their lives at risk to help dying illegals, or picking up the remains of those whose dreams fell fatally short.

Annerino ends Dead in His Tracks with a list 'in memorium' of all documented deaths of immigrants, refugees, border agents, and humanitarian who has died in Arizona's desolate desert. The tome as written, and including his own photographs, is one that will touch you no matter where you stand in the battle waged against illegal immigration.

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Blood on His Hands - The Confession

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