Sunday, March 30, 2014

And that plan is do nothing?

As you see from the date on the previous post, it is now two months since I said I was going to give blogging another go, and I have done nothing. But I am finally spurred to action by one of the first friends I made in the writing world - Marilyn Meredith.

The reason I have no time to blog is that I spend all my time writing and working on a building which I am remodeling into a bookstore. I know it's crazy to be opening an indie bookstore when others are going broke all around the country. But I have a realistic business plan - "lose as little money as possible."

I plan to host signings for all authors willing to come to the store because I enjoy them and my little city has no bookstore, unless you count Books-A-Million, which I don't. But until the store opens (target - this fall), I'll host authors on my blog. And the first one is Marilyn.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Taking another stab at blogging

The date of the post immediately prior to this one is November 31, 2012. That says it all about my enthusiasm for the phenomenon of blogging.
The two most enjoyable things about writing the Pot Thief series are the satisfaction of working at the craft of writing and hearing from readers. I love that people read my books.
But why would anyone want to read my blog? Fiction is created for readers. When I write, I have my readers in mind. I’m constantly asking whether they will like this passage, that line, the new character. If I succeed, they will enjoy the story.
Most of the blogs I read seem like little more than people sharing their inner dialog with the universe at large. Of course some blogs have a plan and a pattern. Julie Powell became famous for blogging about her effort to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's cookbook in 365 days. I liked the movie based on it, but I can’t imagine that I would have followed the blog. I’d much rather try the recipes myself than read about someone else doing so.
So here I am, blogging about the fact that I don’t like to write blogs. And this from a guy with a Ph.D. in mathematical logic.
But I have decided to give blogging another try. New editions of all six Pot Thief books with new covers and fresh edits have been officially launched today by my new publisher, Open Road Integrated Media. They are wonderful folks with impressive resumes and fresh new ideas about the publishing business. And I know the publicist and editor assigned to me, Nina Lassam and Pete Beatty respectively, no doubt expect me to blog, and I don’t want to disappoint them. So watch this spot to see what kind of a blog it turns out to be.
I have a plan.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Next Big Thing


The Next Big Thing is a sort of blogging chain letter wherein a writer answers 10 questions about his or her current writing project and then tags five other writers with their links so that you can see how they answer the same questions. I think this may be illegal in Utah and Mississippi.

So here is my go at it:

1.  What is your working title of your book?

The Pot Thief Who Studied Confucius.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

My wife will be teaching in China next spring, so that is where I will be writing. I’m hoping for some wisdom for a change.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Humorous murder mysteries.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I watch mainly old movies, so all the people I think fit the parts are dead.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Hubie finds an Anasazi pot that seems to undermine the theory that Native Americans came to North America across the Bering Strait, but someone is willing to kill to preserve the theory.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have two agents. One for books and one for screen rights. Maybe I should ask the screen rights agent about question 4.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It isn’t complete, but my first drafts usually take about two months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Maltese Falcon as re-written by Woody Allen.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My fans who send me emails saying “keep ‘em coming” and my wife who enjoys the royalty checks.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In the last book, Hubie’s new love interest Sharice told him she couldn’t sleep with him until she told him something she wasn’t ready to disclose. In the NBT, she tells him. The problem is, I have no idea what her secret is. Anyone with an idea, please contact me. I can’t pay you, but I can at least mention you in the acknowledgements.

If you check these author websites, you will see what their NBT is and meet some interesting storytellers:










Tuesday, November 6, 2012


 The first two chapters from The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid (Pot Thief #6)

1

“I would rather write another book than be rich.” - Lew Wallace
“Amen.” – J. Michael Orenduff



I was on a ledge three hundred feet above the Rio Doloroso violating two federal laws, one on purpose and the other by accident.
I felt like Indiana Jones. Except I was afraid to approach the precipice. But my acrophobia didn’t stop me from digging. I’d been told there were ancient pots here, and I knew they would be back in the ruins, not out on the rim.
I’m not a professional archaeologist and I didn’t have a permit to excavate, so the first law I was breaking was the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).
So what?
Because of the American Bar Association, it would be impossible today for Abe Lincoln to be a lawyer.
Because of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, it would be impossible today for Thomas Edison to be an electrical engineer.
And thanks to the Archaeological Institute of America, it’s also impossible for me to hunt for artifacts legally. Which was why I was digging under cover of darkness.
Every association of ‘professionals’ wants to exclude amateurs. So Congress caved in to the wishes of professional archaeologists back in the eighties and passed ARPA.
My name is Hubert Schuze, and I’m a treasure hunter. Congress redefined me as a pot thief, but it also passed a health care program with a price tag of 940 billion dollars and called it the ‘Affordable Health Care Act’. They aren’t exactly experts when it comes to truth in labeling.
Here’s a message for my representatives in Washington — Health care is not affordable and most archaeological resources do not need protecting.
If they’re resources, we should exploit them. That’s what I do, and I’m positive that’s what the people who created them would want.
I’m a potter myself. After I’m long dead, I don’t want the pots I made mouldering in the ground like John Brown’s body. I want some enterprising lad like myself to dig them up, appreciate them, and make a few bucks in the process. Maybe he can earn enough to see a doctor.
I do feel bad about the second law I was breaking, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Who other than a ghoul would violate that one?
But it wasn’t my fault. I was digging in a ruin of residences. Prehistoric tribes didn’t bury their dead in their living quarters. So you can imagine my surprise when I stuck my hand into the hole I’d dug and grasped another hand.
I’d been hoping for an artifact, not a handshake.
It gets worse.
One of the tools I use is a piece of rebar. Knowing this would make professional archaeologists bite the bristles off their little bitty brushes. But the success rate is low in treasure hunting. I can’t afford to waste time digging in dry holes. So I use the rebar to probe through soft soil and discover whether there is anything solid below the surface.
When I feel the slightest resistance, I set the rebar aside and dig with my hands. I don’t want to damage any potential merchandise. Usually what I find is a rock or a root.
The rebar had bumped a pot shard in the first area I dug. It wasn’t big enough to be marketable. But it had an unusual design I’d never seen and a long graceful curve I wanted to see if I could duplicate. I pocketed it.
As I was about to start a second hole, some sand pelted me from the overhang above. I yelled up to Geronimo to stay away from the edge, but he never listens to me. And it could just as easily have been a crow or a chipmunk.
Too bad I didn’t move after the sand hit me. For it was in the second location that my rebar’s advance through the soil was impeded by the aforementioned hand. I had accidentally desecrated human remains.
I felt woozy. The chorizo I’d wolfed down for energy gurgled up my esophagus. I swallowed hard to keep it down.
Then I heard an even louder gurgling.
It wasn’t my tummy rumbling. It was the familiar rurrer-rurrer-rurrer of the starter motor on my Bronco. Most people don’t know what a starter motor sounds like. They turn the key and hear only the reassuring roar of the engine coming to life. They have shiny new cars.
But a thirty-two-year-old Ford Bronco doesn’t jump to life. Like its forty-something-year-old owner, it takes more time getting started than it used to.
I had left Geronimo with the Bronco. And while he sometimes displays a certain canine cunning, I didn’t think he was capable of starting the thing. But couldn’t he at least have barked at the car thief?
It wasn’t that I minded much about losing the vehicle. But the rope that had lowered me down to the ruin – and by means of which I planned to ascend back to the surface – was attached to the winch.
I was stranded in a prehistoric cliff dwelling three hundred feet above the river below and thirty feet below the ground above.
Thirty feet is not that far. If it isn’t too steep, you could just walk up it. But then your enemies could come down it just as easily, which would defeat the purpose of a cliff dwelling.
Even if it were a perfectly vertical cliff, you could perhaps work your way up using little rock fissures as hand and toe holds. But when the cliff is past vertical, when it slants away from the direction you want to go, the only way up is by rope.
Like the one I had just watched disappear.
Of course there was another way out. There would be a path cut into the cliff that would take me to a point where the terrain allowed a narrow switchback climb up to the surface. Ancient cliff dwellers sought places with an overhang for protection and a narrow entrance path that could be easily guarded. One man can hold off an entire raiding party if they have to approach single file. He just stands behind a big rock next to the narrowest part of the path and pushes them over the edge as they creep along.
Just the thought of that narrowest part of the path made me break out in a cold sweat.




2





Unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life in a cliff dwelling, I had to find that path and follow it.
But I wasn’t going to risk it at night. And I wasn’t going to sleep next to a partially open grave. So I filled the hole and gently packed down the soil. I don’t know any prayers for reinterment, but I said what came to mind and meant every word of it.
I had my first aid kit, water, matches, a flashlight and a warm jacket with a pocket full of chorizo. It wasn’t everything you’d take on a wilderness camping trip, but it was enough.
I also had a large gunny sack. I didn’t get to carry a pot or two home in it as I had hoped, but it did come in handy in several ways. My final piece of equipment was the rebar, one end of which had recently poked a human hand.
I thought about tossing it over the ledge into the Rio Doloroso. But the way my luck was running, it would probably impale some wilderness trekker asleep in his tent. I didn’t need that on my conscience, so I just stuck the thing in the ground, evil end first.
I rolled the jacket up for a pillow and bedded down behind what remained of a rock and mud wall. Maybe the prayer had cleansed my mind because I dropped off to sleep almost immediately.
The first time I woke up, it was because of the cold. I put the jacket on. The gunny sack was not substantial enough to make much of a pillow, but at least it saved me from having to sleep with my head directly on the ground.
The second time I woke up, it was because of the rustling sound.
There was no wind. Something was moving through the brush. And getting nearer. I pulled the rebar out of the ground. Let it be a skunk, I thought, although it was making way too much noise to be one.
A skunk would be okay. Even a bobcat. They seldom attack humans. Just not a mountain lion. Or worse, a badger. A badger would probably bite through the rebar before bulldozing me off the cliff.
It was just a few feet away. I could hear it panting. I raised the rebar above my head just as it broke into the clearing and lept at me.
It would’ve served him right if I’d brained him with the piece of iron. He didn’t bark to scare away the car thief, and he didn’t bark to let me know he was approaching.
He’s probably a mix of Irish setter and border collie. I suspect he’s also part anteater. I don’t think they bark. It would also explain the long neck that sags down and sways to and fro as he walks.
Despite the start he gave me, I was glad to see him. His feathery wagging tail and big sad eyes were part of it. But the main reason was that Geronimo’s arrival confirmed the path was still there and passable. He may be part anteater, but he is certainly not part mountain goat. If he could make it down the path, I could make it back up.
He inhaled the chorizo I gave him then started digging at the soft dirt I had tamped down. My explanation about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act fell on deaf ears. See what I mean about him never listening to me?
So I put a heavy rock on top of the grave.
I guess I’ve seen too many old westerns because the sight of the rock put me in mind to construct a crude cross from two limbs and push it into the soft ground behind the rock. Then it occurred to me that someone born here five hundred years before Columbus was unlikely to have been a Christian.
I fell asleep thinking about what object or symbol might be appropriate for the grave.
And awoke for the third time to the sound of another critter coming down the trail. I have only one dog, so the same thoughts as before ran through my head except for the bear my overwrought imagination added to the mountain lion and the badger.
It was noisy and moving slowly.
And dragging a chain.
A chain?
On a cliff over the Rio Doloroso in the middle of nowhere?
I tried to imagine what it could be. The ghost of grave robbers past? The angry spirit of the corpse I had impaled?
Geronimo whined and scooted back against the cliff. I joined him. For all I know, I was also whining. I was giving serious consideration to taking a running leap into the Rio Doloroso if a bear or mountain lion appeared.
I figured there were two possibilities. The river would be dry, as it frequently is in late summer, and I would go splat on its rocky bed. Or I might land in water deep enough to survive the fall. Since I can’t swim, I would drown. Both options seemed preferable to being eaten alive by a bear or mountain lion.
And what more appropriate place to die than one named doloroso?
But it was neither a bear nor a mountain line. It was a young coyote dragging a chain attached to a trap clamped on his left front foot. I suppose he was young enough that his bones were still supple. The trap had not broken his leg. But it had done major damage. There was a lot of blood on his leg and quite a bit on his muzzle.
Stories of coyotes chewing off a foot to escape a trap are pure myth. He had blood on his muzzle because he had licked the wound, not because he had attempted self-amputation. How he managed to pull the stake out of the ground I don’t know. Maybe the idiot who set the trap didn’t anchor it properly.
I tossed a chorizo to him. He sniffed at it. He looked up at me with what looked to be a quizzical expression. Then he ate the chorizo.
He looked down at his leg then up at me. It’s tempting to say he wanted help, but I don’t believe coyotes see humans as helpers. The Wildlife Service kills over six thousand coyotes in New Mexico every year by trapping, snaring, shooting, poisoning and aerial gunning.
Yes, aerial gunning. They shoot them from helicopters and small planes. Keep that in mind the next time you see one of those highway signs that read, “speeding enforced by aircraft.”
One moment you’re motoring down the interstate. The next you’re taken out by an air-to-surface missile.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Visit From a Good friend and a Good Writer

I'm delighted to ave Marilyn Meredith stop by as part of her blog tour for Raging Waters, the latest in her Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, a book that is getting a lot f favorable publicity.  Marilyn and I have both been finalists for EPIC Awards, and she won one last year. We were both finalists when I won the year the conference was in New Orleans, and she tried to wrest the award away from me - see photographic evidence below.






What Being a Writer Has Done for Me



First, I better tell you what it hasn’t done for me. I am not rich or famous. However, I think some of pluses are worth far more than either of those.
Because of being a writer I’ve made many friends I would never have had the opportunity to meet any other way. Some of these friends are other writers, of course. I’ve met them at writing conferences and mystery conventions. Mike Orenduff is one. Because he and his wife live on the other side of the country, without attending writing conferences my chances of meeting them both were pretty slim. I might not have read his Pot Thief books if it hadn’t been for the conferences. I’ve also met some of my other favorite writers this way too and often this was my introduction to their books.
I’ve also made friends with readers, some of whom have become fans, and many I met at the various mystery cons I’ve attended. Of course I have some fans I’ve never met except via email or on Facebook, but it sure is nice when you can sit down and have a conversation with someone who loves your books and wants to know what’s going to happen to the characters next. Or even what happened with probably the biggest fan of my Tempe Crabtree mystery series, she asked to be a character in my next book. Raging Water is the one she’s in. I didn’t use her name, just her house, though I moved it to a new location, her two dogs and I did use their names, and a lot of her personality.
I’ve been all sorts of places I would never have gone if it weren’t for the fact that a conference or convention was being held there. Places like New Orleans, Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Chicago in the middle of a huge snowstorm, El Paso, San Antonio, Plano and Austin Texas, Reno, Virginia Beach and Arlington VA, Oklahoma City, OK, Orlando and Tampa FL, Maui, Hawaii, Anchorage, Kwithlik, Bethel, and Wasilla, Alaska, and many beach, desert and mountain and big cities in California,
My trips to Alaska included adventures I’d not expected. In order to get to a school to speak to students in the village of Kwithlik, I was driven in a big Suburban several miles on a frozen river—and back again, of course.  While in Anchorage the first time I made friends with two Native sisters and the second time I went I stayed with one in Wasilla and had a great time with her and her family. I spent the day in a middle talking to lots and lots of kids about writing mysteries.
Best of all, I’m doing what I’ve always loved, writing and talking about books.
Marilyn Meredith
Raging Water Blurb: Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation of the murder of two close friends is complicated when relentless rain turns Bear Creek into a raging river. Homes are inundated and a mud slide blocks the only road out of Bear Creek stranding many—including the murderer.
Contest: The person who leaves comments on the most blogs will have his/her name used for a character in my next book—can choose if you want it in a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery or a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.
Bio: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Raging Water from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel us No Bells, the forth from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/
Marilyn borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Hillerman Writers Conference

Join me at the Hillerman Writers Conference on Friday, November 9, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for "Now That’s Funny: Writing with Humor." I'll be presenting with Richard Peck and Steve Brewer. The conference includes an all-day workshop for authors on pacing their work, a day on the craft of writing, and a day on the business of writing. For a discount, register before September 22 to take advantage of early-bird pricing. Visit http://www.wordharvest.com/registration.php for more schedule details and to register. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

FROM HERMIT TO NON-FICTION WRITER


I’ve become a writing hermit. My publisher and writer friends urge me to join twitter. I don’t because I don’t want to devote time to tweeting when I could be writing. I don’t keep up with my FaceBook page, and my blog has about four posts a year. I’ve virtually stopped reading non-fiction. I have a life outside of writing. My wife and I travel, cook, go to plays and museums, etc. But in my professional life, I just write.

So when Tim Hallinan invited me to be a contributor for a collection he was putting together on how to plot a book, I thought to myself, if I I don’t read non-fiction because I don’t want to lose another chunk of time, why would I lose an even bigger chunk writing it? But it’s Tim Hallinan, one of my favorite authors, and he did all the work. All I had to do was write a small piece about my plotting (or lack thereof).

It turned out to be surprisingly refreshing task. But what was more surprising was I enjoyed reading the contributions of the other twenty writers. That’s when I realized I had become a hermit. So now the book is out, and I hope some writers will be helped by it and that it sells enough copies for Tim to recoup the time and money he put into the project. And I’m glad I did it because I learned a lot from the other contributors and enjoyed both the reading and the writing. Will I start doing daily blogs? Probably not, but I’ll try to get out of the cave more often.

Here’s a description of the book by Tim Hallinan:

MAKING STORY: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS ON HOW THEY PLOT
A bunch of fine crime writers who, among them, have written more than 100 novels, talk about their plotting process.  Following each essay there's a brief excerpt from a book by that writer and, at the end, a round table discussion about basic issues/challenges.  The writers are Brett Battles, Cara Black, Lisa
Brackmann, Rachel Brady, Rebecca Cantrell, Jeffrey Cohen, Meredith Cole, Bill Crider, Jeremy Duns, Leighton Gage, Gar Anthony Haywood, Wendy Hornsby, Debbi Mack, Mike Orenduff, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Zoe Sharp,Jeffrey Siger, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Kelli Stanley, Michael Stanley, and I.
I really think it's a good resource, even if I did edit it, and it's cheap, too.  It's at http://amzn.to/OmB1zO.