Friday, December 12, 2008

Been busy writing

I haven't been around much lately, because I've been scrambling to meet my deadlines - if you missed the (many) earlier mentions, I have a murder mystery trilogy coming out in 2009 from the new cozy mystery imprint Heartsong Presents Mysteries. (You can click on the banner below for more info.) The trilogy is called the "Kentucky Geezers Mysteries," and stars Earl Walker, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a bullet ended his career as a metro bus driver years ago. (There's a lot more to it, but I'll have to fill you in later.)

The first volume, NURSING A GRUDGE, has now been through two rounds: the draft I turned in, and then a new draft following the edits/suggestions from the content editor. I am waiting now for the line editor to send me additional requests/changes.

A draft of the second volume, BURYING THE HATCHET, is in the hands of a personal reader, who'll point out all my mistakes in continuity and such. Once I hear back from her, the book will be revised once or twice more before I turn it over to my editors at HPM. (I am thrilled with this one, because it's my first "impossible crime" mystery!)

And I am now plotting the third and final volume, KNOCKING 'EM DEAD. Yesterday, I had an online chat with two of my editors, as they helped me think through some of the particulars. If I can make it work, this will be a great finale, because we finally learn Earl's big secret - which threatens to destroy the most important relationship in his life. (It promises to be a crazy ride!)

These novels have been a fun exercise in following the model of classic mysteries, as written by the likes of Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe), Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot), and exemplified in television shows like Murder She Wrote and Diagnosis: Murder. And because the HPM books all have inspirational and romantic elements, that means there's a lot at stake as Earl is forced to confront both the killer -- and himself.

The three individual titles will be available early to mid-next year, and a 3-in-1 "mystery omnibus" is scheduled for November 2009. I can't wait! (But, of course, I have to finish them first.)

Speaking of the omnibuses (omnibi?): Heartsong Mysteries coming to retailers

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CBA Bookseller Directory

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The state of book publishing

It's no secret that book publishing as an industry is having some trouble, as outlined by agent Chip MacGregor here and author Lee Goldberg here. But, as acquisitions editor Karen Ball explains, people still need books.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I've got deadlines for two books breathing down on me. (Not to mention that third book, due in February!) So blogging is going to be hit and miss the next few weeks ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MONK ends with season eight

Detective series Monk -- the most successful series in the history of basic cable -- officially ends after one more season. Reportedly, we'll finally discover the truth behind the murder of his beloved late wife, Trudy: Monk to Clean Up for One Last Season (Yahoo! News)

Related links:
Mr. Monk and the Finished Manuscript
The stars shine for MONK 100
MONK: New therapist, new episodes
ADRIAN MONK: The face of OCD
Mr. Monk And The Continuity Police
Mystery TV Themes: MONK
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Heartsong Mysteries coming to retailers

The first wave of cozy mystery titles from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries is now available through your local bookseller. Also coming to retailers are the first two 3-in-1 "omnibus" titles, available December 1:

Cozy in Kansas (Ivy Towers Mystery Omnibus) Featuring In the Dead of Winter, Bye, Bye Bertie, and For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls, by Nancy Mehl

Alibis in Arkansas (Sleuthing Sisters Mystery Omnibus) Featuring Death on a Deadline, Death of a Diva, and Death at a Diner, by Christine Lynxwiler, Jan Reynolds, and Sandy Gaskin

Find A Bookseller Near You
ABA Bookseller Directory
CBA Bookseller Directory

Saturday, November 15, 2008


One ongoing struggle for a working artist is navigating his or her way between the rock and the hard place of "same" and "different." As artists, we want to stretch ourselves, trying new and different things. We get bored if it's always the same thing, the same place, the same deal.

Yet the working artist is expected to stay relatively the same. Oh, sure, we can try something different -- as long as it's not too different. We're expected to be a "brand." When you read our latest book (or listen to our latest song or look at our latest painting), our name on that product promises to meet certain expectations.

(Of course, part of the problem is whether the work is, in fact, a "product" or "art." If it is a "product," the response from the "consumer" is pretty important. If it is "art," the artist is free to ignore the expectations of the consumer, as long as the artist doesn't mind shoving the unwanted results in a drawer.)

Mystery writers are expected to write mystery stories. Fantasy writers are expected to write fantasy stories. Romance writers, science fiction writers, and thriller writers are expected to write romance fiction, science fiction, and thriller fiction.

As a consumer, I get that. I appreciate the importance of the "brand." I don't go to a pizza place for the tacos.

Fair or not, I also apply these expectations to media. I enjoy a broad range of media and entertainment -- but when I pick up something by a familiar author, it can be a disappointment if it isn't what I expected. (If a jar labeled "mustard" turns out to be salsa, it can be the greatest salsa in the world -- but I wanted mustard.)

But as an author, I want to write a lot of different things. I want to write impossible crime whodunits and cozy mysteries and crime fiction and extra-biblical speculative thrillers and superhero sitcoms and stuff with giant monsters. I also want to write podcast audio dramas and YouTube micro-comedies and stageplays for the International Mystery Writers Festival and mini mysteries and crime teledramas for the BBC and comic books and comic strips.

The folks who have read my fiction to date may be on board for several of the above, or even most of the above ... but very few would be on board for all of the above. It's not easy to find readers equally interested in Diagnosis Murder and Gozilla. (Hence, my launching a separate blog, Giant Monsters On The Loose.)

All of which is to say, my lovely wife and I want to do some comics together. And, given that my "name brand" carries an expectation of some kind of zany mystery or crime fiction (albeit, with my own special bent), we want to be strategic. So we are developing a new comic strip to pitch to a newspaper syndicate. It's a crime serial, very close in tone to the fiction I've been writing. As such, it is reasonable to expect the novels and the comic strips to build off each other, introducing new readers to my work from both directions.

Once that comic is launched, we can then develop some of our comic book ideas. Those move a little further afield, so we'll likely start with the idea that is just a little off to the side ... and gradually work our way toward the big, crazy, giant monster comic book. Each step of the way, we hope to carry some of our readers from the previous project(s), and also pick up some new ones. Very few will want everything -- but if the spectrum I'm working has say, five channels, you may like two or three of them. And that's enough.

As we go along, we'll have to figure out what the brand "Chris Well" means. Because I want to do a lot of different things.

Now if I can just find the time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton 1942-2008

Author and filmmaker Michael Crichton died Tuesday of cancer. He was 66. His best-selling novels, including 1969's The Andromeda Strain, 1975's The Great Train Robbery, 1990's Jurassic Park, 2004's State of Fear and 2006's Next, have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide. His credits as a screenwriter, director, and producer include 1973's Westworld, 1978's Coma, and 1996's Twister.

Crichton was also creator and executive producer of the television drama ER. According to Wikipedia, in December 1994 he had the No. 1 movie (Jurassic Park), the No. 1 TV show (ER), and the No. 1 book (Disclosure).

Remembering Michael Crichton (Macworld)
Author Michael Crichton, Dead at 66 (New York Observer)
Author Michael Crichton wrote about traveling too (Los Angeles Times)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Crime writers on PUNISHER

As I posted yesterday on my genre blog Giant Monsters On The Loose, the editors at Marvel Comics have called on three crime novelists to each contribute an arc to Marvel's MAX ("mature readers") title Punisher: Gregg Hurwitz (The Crime Writer) has scripted "Girls In White Dresses," which runs in Punisher #60-#65, through December; Duane Swierczynski (Severance Package) follows with "Six Hours To Kill," appearing in Punisher #66-#70, January through May 2009; and Victor Gischler (Shotgun Opera) wraps up with "Welcome To The Bayou" in Punisher #71-#75, which kicks off June 2009.

Editor Axel Alonso promises the three stories to be "fast-paced, ultra-violent, and gritty ... but each story also displays the unique skills of each writer." (Full story at Comic Book Resources.)


Max Allan Collins is set to write and direct two sequels to Road to Perdition, the Oscar-winning 2002 film based on the original graphic novel written by Collins, with art by Richard Piers Rayner. The first sequel, Road to Purgatory, revisits Michael Sullivan, Jr. (son of Tom Hanks' character in the first film), back from World War II determined to avenge his father's murder.

Related links:
Novelists who write comics
Crime writers who also write comics

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy 75th, John Barry!

Birthday greetings to composer extraordinaire John Barry, who turns 75 today! Although he has written music for a variety of media, he is best known for his lush, epic, often melancholic film scores, five of which nabbed him Oscars: 1966's Born Free (for which he was awarded both "Best Score" and "Best Song"); The Lion in Winter (1968); Out of Africa (1985); and Dances With Wolves (1990).

He has also scored the likes of Zulu (1964), The Ipcress File (1965), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Somewhere In Time (1980), Body Heat (1981), Hammett (1982), Chaplin (1992), and Mercury Rising (1998) -- not to mention, a record eleven James Bond films: From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), Moonraker (1979), Octopussy (1983), A View To A Kill (1985), and The Living Daylights (1987), in which Barry had a cameo.

Variety celebrates his birthday with several articles about Barry's career in films, television, and theater:

Composer with the midas touch
Five oscars reflect his elegant simplicity

John Barry reflects on 10 of his scores
'Goldfinger' 'Midnight Cowboy' reconsidered

Barry succeeds in theater and TV
Obscure works attest to composer's ambition

Collaborators reflect on John Barry
Scores continue to move filmmakers

John Barry invented the spy movie score
Unique arrangements ushered in a new genre

Related links:
John Barry at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
John Barry at the Internet Movie Database
John Barry at The Danish Filmmusic Society (DFS)
Biography of John Barry
Official Somewhere In Time Website
Filmtracks' Tribute to John Barry
John Barry: A Life in Music
John Barry discography at

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Making a film on a microbudget

The folks at MyFlik has released a series of DVDs that, altogether, form the screenwriting workshop "Writing A Great Script Fast." From the site:

Writing A Great Script Fast In A Nutshell: Story is the hardest thing to learn for most digital filmmakers these days since the technology has become so easy to use and inexpensive. How would you like to write a great script in about 24 hours while learning almost everything you need to know to tell brilliant visual stories for the rest of your life? Click on the link above for more info and downloads.

Order the DVDs from Amazon:
Part 1 Introduction & Basics
Part 2 Brainstorming For Story Ideas
Part 3 Creating Original Characters
Part 4 Character History
Part 5 Metaphors & Symbols
Part 6 Symbolic Story Elements
Part 7 Symbolic Story Themes
Part 8 Drama & Hero Journey Plots
Part 9 Other Types Of Plot
Part 10 Plot Twists, Goals & Endings
Part 11 Setups & Short Films Plot Points
Part 12 Feature Film Plot Points & Symbolic Settings
Part 13 Treatments & Finding Nemo 40 Plot Points
Part 14 Adding Conflict
Part 15 Scene Reversals
Part 16 Plot Weaving
Part 17 Dialogue & Monologues
Part 18 Suspense
Part 19 Humor & Screenwriting

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another review for TRIBULATION HOUSE

Bruce Judisch wrote up a really nice review of my 2007 "quirky apocalyptic gangster novel" Tribulation House (Harvest House Publishers). Check it out here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman 1925-2008

Tony Hillerman, author of the Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels, died Sunday of pulmonary failure. He was 83. Link: Acclaimed author Tony Hillerman dies at 83 (AP)

Beating Sherlock Holmes

Historically, mystery fans generally consider the first two sleuths in modern detective fiction to be Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin in the 1840s and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes in the 1880s. However, during the 40 years in between, at least one author was also writing mystery fiction: Westholme Publishing has unearthed the never-reprinted 1864 collection Leaves from the Note-Book of a New York Detective: The Private Record of J.B., by author John Babbington Williams.

"Twenty years before Sherlock Holmes, a fictional New York private investigator was being celebrated for his ability to solve crimes based on observation and deductive reasoning -- the principles that would later become Holmes' hallmark. Originally published in 1864 and never before reprinted, "Leaves from the Note-Book of a New York Detective" features 29 cases from the first American detective hero to appear in fiction, James Brampton."

Check out Sarah Weinman's review, Dark Passages: Early American Detective Fiction.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Next from Heartsong Presents: Mysteries

Coming up in the latest shipment from cozy mystery imprint Heartsong Presents: Mysteries:

Down Home and Deadly
Christine Lynxwiler, Jan Reynolds, and Sandy Gaskin
When Jenna Stafford quits her deadend job to help her sister Carly open a diner, she may have jumped from a the frying pan into the fire. Even though business is really cooking, last time the sister checked, murder was not on the menu.

Of Mice ... And Murder
Mary Connealy
Being named in great-grandma's will was like hitting bankrupt on the Wheel of Fortune. The whole family held their breath while the wheel ticked around and around-or rather while the lawyer opened the envelope.

Misfortune Cookies
Linda P. Kozar
Best firends Sue Jan and Lovita run a beauty shop/boutique in the little West Texas town of Wachita. They share a passion for food and fun. But one day, over lunch in a Chinese restraurant, Lovita opens a fortune cookie with a sinister fortune.

There Goes Santa Claus
Nancy Mehl
A few days before December 25, Ivy and her husband Amos are awakened by noises on their rooftop. Amos' joke that Santa Claus must have arrived early loses its humor when a body goes flying past their second-story window.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Building critical mass

One challenge for any novelist is finding just enough fans to stay in print ... long enough that complete strangers can also discover your book. Marketing guru Seth Godin (Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us) has a few things to say on the topic, in his blog entry The sad truth about marketing shortcuts:

"Critical mass is the pay off from focused, consistent effort. Critical mass is what you don't get if you are constantly working the angles and looking for a shortcut. ... If you have a presence on twitter, squidoo, blogs, facebook, myspace, linkedin and 20 other sites, the chances of finding critical mass at any of them is close to zero. But if you dominate, if you're the goto person, the king of your hill, magical things happen. One follower in each of twenty places is worthless. Twenty connected followers in one place is a tribe. It's the foundation for building something that matters." (Read the whole entry here.)

Speaking of which, I have whittled my social network presence down to primarily
Facebook and ShoutLife. (The other pages are still out there, but I don't have time to visit all of them.)

Related links:
The changing business of media
10 Links To Build Your Blog Traffic
The Biz of Fiction

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Fans of classic pulp detective The Shadow will be glad to know that Radio Spirits has a new collection of 1930s-40s old time radio dramas starring the masked vigilante: The Shadow: Knight of Darkness features eighteen digitally restored and remastered episodes from the classic mystery/suspense series on nine audio CDs, including episodes featuring three of the actors who portrayed the title dual role of The Shadow and alter ego, Lamont Cranston -- Orson Welles, William Johnstone, and Bret Morrison. The set also includes two newly discovered "lost" episodes from 1938, plus a program guide by radio historian Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. with photographs and background info about the shows. (For more details click here.)

More of The Shadow:

Radio Dramas
The Shadow (3-Hour Collectors' Editions) (3-Hour Collectors' Editions)
Mystery: Old Time Radio Shows (Original Radio Broadcasts)

Mystery Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection (with The Shadow Strikes and The Shadow: International Crime)
Shadow: Shadow Strikes/International Crime (1937/1938)
The Shadow (1994)

Classic Pulp Reprints from Nostalgia Ventures (each featuring two novels)
The Shadow #1: "The Golden Vulture" and "Crime, Insured"
The Shadow #2: "The Chinese Disks" and "Malmordo"
The Shadow #3: "The Red Blot" and "The Voodoo Master"
The Shadow #4: "The Murder Master" and "The Hydra"
The Shadow #5: "The Black Falcon" and "The Salamanders"
The Shadow #6: "The Shadow's Justice" and "The Broken Napoleans"
The Shadow #7: "The Cobra" and "The Third Shadow"
The Shadow #8: "The London Crimes" and "Castle of Doom"
The Shadow #9: "Lingo" and "Partners of Peril" (the stories that inspired the creation of BATMAN!)
The Shadow #10: "The City of Doom" and "The Fifth Face"
The Shadow #11: "The Road of Crime" and "Crooks Go Straight"
The Shadow #12: "Serpents of Siva" and "The Magigals Mystery"
The Shadow #13: "Six Men of Evil" and "The Devil Monsters"
The Shadow #14: "The Grove of Doom" and "The Masked Lady"
The Shadow #15: "The Shadow Unmasks" and "The Yellow Band"
The Shadow #16: "City of Crime" and "Shadow Over Alcatraz"
The Shadow #17: "The Fate Joss" and "The Golden Pagoda"
The Shadow #18: "The Golden Masks" and "The Unseen Killer"
The Shadow #19: "VooDoo Trail" and "Death's Harlequin" (more origins of BATMAN)
The Shadow #20: "The Blue Sphinx" and "Jibaro Death"
The Shadow #21: "The Plot Master" and "Death Jewels"

Related links:
The Shadow Volume 19 Reveals The TRUE Origins of "Batman"...
Two historic novels that gave birth to Batman!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Flynn's World
Written by Gregory Mcdonald

What a great book! Through three interweaving plots -- a distinguished Harvard professor is being harrassed; a young man is found with his ear nailed to a tree, but refuses to say who did it; a police lieutenant has an "impressive" arrest record that displays a disturbing trend -- Boston Police Inspector Francis Xavier Flynn is forced to explore different forms of intolerance, from the hypocrisy that comes from an irrational brand of political correctness, to a prejudice as old as humanity.

Flynn's World is a remarkable work, in that it is a story about people struggling with a crumbling society, a commentary about the fractionalization that comes with jettisoning the past, and a treatise on the importance of embracing our common humanity before technology makes us obsolete. All, of course, neatly wrapped in the guise of a fast-paced and clever mystery story.

Don't get me wrong: the author has not written some cold textbook. Flynn's World is infused with all the trademarks we expect from Mcdonald -- crisp dialogue, colorful characters, and rich storytelling. The scenes with Flynn at home with his wife and five children are priceless. And watching Flynn infuriate his fellows at the Boston Police with philosophical conundrums is a howl.

This is the final book starring Flynn. He debuted in the Edgar Award-winning Confess, Fletch (1976), before going to star in four books of his own: Flynn (1977); The Buck Passes Flynn (1981); Flynn's In (1984); and then Flynn's World (2003).

Do yourself a favor and read each and every one of them.

When Boston Police Inspector Francis Xavier Flynn’s barely adolescent daughter asks him to rescue her friend Billy from the cemetery, where he’s been fastened to a tree by a nail through his earlobe, the good inspector is pretty sure there’s something more behind what at first seems like a bully’s prank. And he’s convinced there is more than mischief involved in the hateful threats against distinguished Harvard professor Louis Loveson. If that weren’t enough to keep Flynn busy, there’s Lieutenant John Kurt, whose very impressive arrest record follows some very disturbing patterns. In Flynn's World, two-time Edgar Award-winner Gregory Mcdonald’s dogged detective confronts intolerance in all its guises, and sheds light on more than one dark secret.

F.X. Flynn made his first appearance in Confess, Fletch, where he matched wits with the inimitable Irwin Fletcher. Since then he has befuddled, bemused, amazed, and infuriated his colleagues on the Boston Police force as he has pursued international terrorists, blackmailers, murderers, embezzlers, politicians, and, occasionally, his fellow policemen—all while doing his regular job.

Excerpt, discussion guide, author bio, and more online at Vintage

Related links:
'Fletch' author Mcdonald 1937-2008
GREGORY McDONALD and the Fletch Books, Lee Goldberg

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neal Hefti 1922-2008

Composer and arranger Neal Hefti, best known for his familiar themes for "Batman" and "The Odd Couple," died Oct. 11 at his home in Toluca Lake, California. He was 85. Hefti's prolific career as a jazz musician, composer, and arranger started in the 1940s and flourished in the 1950s and '60s, as he worked alongside such legends as Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Tony Bennett. Working with film and TV in the 1960s, Hefti's credits included How to Murder Your Wife, Barefoot in the Park -- and the original film The Odd Couple.

TV Themes: BATMAN 1966 (w/ THE ODD COUPLE) (Learning Curve)
Composer Neal Hefti; Jazz Master Penned Theme for 'Batman' (Washington Post)
Neal Hefti, composer of 'Batman' theme, dies (MSN Entertainment News)
Neal Hefti - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monday, October 13, 2008

Falling for the Nigerian scam

Anyone with an email account has likely been approached once (if not dozens of times) by some variation of the "Nigerian scam," where someone posing as a wealthy foreigner promises millions of dollars for very little effort. (More explanation of this con click here.) Shocking as it sounds, victims still fall for this all the time.

Armed with this information, novelist Lisa Harris was inspired to write the suspense thriller Final Deposit (Love Inspired Suspense). She explains the thinking behind the book on her blog ("Fiction vs. Fact"), and in her interview with Keep Me In Suspense ("Interview with Lisa Harris").

About the book:
It's just another scam, sent via email to thousands. Yet Lindsey Taylor's elderly father has fallen for it and lost his life savings. He's even gone off to claim his promised fortune. Lindsey knows he'll never see a penny. Worse, she's worried she'll never see him again. Frantic, she turns to financial security expert Kyle Walker. Kyle has his own vendetta: he lost his brother to an Internet mail-order-bride scheme. He's promised to help Lindsey find her father, but first he has to get them close to the scam artists. And the closer they get, the more danger they find ...

Related link:
Q&A: LISA HARRIS (Recipe For Murder)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Southern Festival of Books

This weekend, the Southern Festival of Books is in Nashville. Some handy links:
Humanities Tennessee | This Year's Festival
From mysteries to memoirs, the strong survive at the Southern Festival of Books (Nashville Scene)
Acclaimed novelist appears at Southern Festival of Books (Nashville City Paper)
Southern Festival of Books celebrates written word (The Tennessean)

Bouchercon 2008

Bouchercon 2008 is underway in Baltimore, drawing creators and fans of mystery fiction from all over the world. Some handy links:
Bouchercon in Baltimore -- CHARM CITY (Official Site)
Conference Culture (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing)
Greetings from Baltimore (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind)
Bouchercon blogging (Odd Jobs)
Crime writers who also write comics (Learning Curve)
Reporter-turned-novelist lives her secret dream (San Francisco Chronicle)
Bouchercon: The definitive mystery conference (Off the Page)
Read Street: Meet the mystery authors (Baltimore Sun)
Crime Spree: The Tirelessly Prolific Laura Lippman ... (Baltimore City Paper)
Mystery writers converge on city for conference (Baltimore Sun)

In the news (Oct 10)

Kentucky Deputy Wanted in Ex-Girlfriend's Murder Captured at Days Inn (FOXNews, Oct 7)
The sheriff's deputy accused of killing his ex-girlfriend in Kentucky was taken into custody early Tuesday at a motel in Iowa.

Ala. sheriff says inmate hid hacksaw in Bible (AP, Oct 8)
In Houston County, a 19-year-old man used a hidden hacksaw to cut through a cell bar, but an observant correctional officer saw the damage and searched the inmate's cell.

Body Found in Suitcase in New York Park Contains $100,000 Worth of Heroin Packets (FOXNews, Oct 8)
A man found dead in a suitcase in a suburban park was a drug "mule" who had 50 packets of heroin in his body and probably died when one or two of them broke open, police said Tuesday.

Zoo trip returns to bite suspect (Oklahoman, Oct 8)
A man unwittingly helped lead to his own arrest in the case of a python and a tortoise stolen from the zoo -- when went back to the zoo that day to ask employees how to care for a python and a tortoise.

MTSU confirms arrest made in e-mail threat (City Paper, Oct 9)
Middle Tennessee State University officials confirmed late Thursday the arrest of student Justin Davis, following the receipt of threatening e-mails and what appeared to be a deliberately set residence hall fire.

Sheriff in Ill. county won't evict in foreclosures (AP, Oct 9)
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart won't take part in evictions, concerned that many being evicted are renters unaware their landlords are failing to pay their mortgages.

Palins Repeatedly Pressed Case Against Trooper (NYTimes, Oct 9)
Former Alaska public safety commissioner Walt Monegan believes he was ousted because he would not bow to pressure to dismiss Michael Wooten, the Alaska state trooper now divorced from Gov. Sarah Palin’s sister. The Alaska Legislature is investigating whether the governor abused the powers of her office to pursue a personal vendetta.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Law enforcement consultants

Novel Journey recently hosted partners Glenn Rambo and Candice Speare, whose RS Writing Services is a "law enforcement consulting service for mystery and suspense writers." Glenn has 20 years of police service including patrol, K9, criminal investigations, narcotics, crime scene processing, and emergency management. Candice, a freelance content reviewer for Heartsong Presents: Mysteries!, spent two years volunteering at her local sheriff's office training academy, participating in recruit training scenarios and other aspects of recruit education. Check out the article at Crime Scene Facts from RS Writing Services.

Related links:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bookstores vs. Amazon

Publishers Weekly reports that more than 200 retailers were urged to take a stronger stand against the behemoth that is Amazon. "It’s a matter of survival and a quality-of-life issue for entire communities," explained Carol Besse, co-owner of Carmichael’s Books in Louisville, Kent., and outgoing board president of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. She called for a “grassroots effort to re-educate every author” who visits independents, asking them to disable links to on their Web sites.
Link: Outgoing GLIBA President Issues “Call to Arms”

Find an ABA (American Booksellers Association) store near you
Find a CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) store near you

Monday, October 06, 2008

Crime writers who also write comics

While crime comics have always been part of the comics landscape, there seems to have been an upsurge in the past few years (fueled, somewhat, by the growing number of crime and thriller novelists also writing comics). On October 10, crime fiction convention Bouchercon and Crimespree magazine will host a signing at Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore.

The guest list boasts several novelists who also write comics: Max Allan Collins (The First Quarry, Road to Perdition, Criminal Minds: Finishing School, Ms. Tree -- not to mention several years writing the Dick Tracy newspaper comic strip); Greg Rucka (the Atticus Kodiak series, Adventures of Superman, Gotham Central, Queen & Country); Victor Gischler (Gun Monkeys, Shotgun Opera, Punisher), Duane Swierczynski (Severance Package, The Immortal Iron Fist), and Gary Phillips (Shooter’s Point, High Rollers).

Also on hand will be crime comic writer Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets), artist Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother), and crime webcomic "Odd Jobs" creator Tim Broderick (Cash & Carry).

The event will be held 1-3:30 PM this Friday. Geppi's Entertainment Museum is located at 301 West Camden Street, Baltimore, MD 212201. Additional information is available at

"Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is something that every fan of popular culture should see at least once, if not more," says Jon Jordan, editor of Crimespree. "Crime fiction has long been a vibrant, vital part of American pop culture and it can be found in the pulps, comic strips, comic books, radio programs, television shows, and movie material featured at GEM."

"The old walls between the world of prose fiction and non-fiction on one side and comic books on the other have been shattered in the last few years by people like Max Allan Collins and the other Bouchercon guests who will be signing here at the museum," said Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg, GEM’s Curator. "This is a great celebration of that."

Bouchercon 2008 guests of honor include Lawrence Block, Distinguished Contribution to the Genre; Laura Lippman, American Guest of Honor; John Harvey, International Guest of Honor; Mark Billingham, Toastmaster; Robert Rosenwald and Barbara Peters, Lifetime Achievement Award; and Thalia Proctor, Fan Guest of Honor. Bouchercon also hosts the Anthony Awards, which recognize the achievements of creators in the crime genre in an array of categories ranging from Best Novel to Critical Work, as well as panels and discussion groups. A presentation from DC Comics on their new Vertigo Crime line is also scheduled.

Related links:
Adapting Richard Stark's PARKER
Crime comics: CRIMINAL
10-4: 75 years of DICK TRACY
Defending Comic Books
SINISTER SIX: Are You In Or Out?

Monday, September 29, 2008


Fletch's Fortune
Written by Gregory Mcdonald

Irwin Maurice Fletcher, everyone's favorite independently wealthy journalist, con artist, author, art researcher, and sleuth (not necessarily in that order), once again finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place -- this time the "rock" being the CIA, the IRS, and the threat of prison for tax evasion ... and the "hard place" being a national journalism convention at which Fletch has been forced to spy on his former colleagues. Things only get more complicated when prominent publisher Walter March is found lying face up with a pair of scissors in his back -- and all the conventioneers are trying to beat the police to the scoop.

The third volume in Gregory Mcdonald's delightful Fletch series, Fletch's Fortune is as fresh and engaging as the two Edgar Award-winning novels that preceded it, Fletch and Confess, Fletch. Mcdonald's excellent storytelling skills are on display, as the book is chock full of snappy dialogue, quirky characters, and clever twists and turns along the way. I dare you to put it down.

Excerpt, discussion guide, author bio, and more online at Vintage

Related links:
'Fletch' author Mcdonald 1937-2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Sometime later, I plan to post a review of Gregory Mcdonald's Flynn's World, the final book in his series starring Boston Police Inspector Flynn. For now, suffice it say that I want to write like Gregory Mcdonald when I grow up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is your dog ugly?

Fans of Tim Downs "Bug Man" mysteries can rejoice that there is a new adventure of forensic entomologist Nick Polchak on shelves, Less Than Dead:

When strange bones surface on a U.S. senator's property, the FBI enlists forensic entomologist Nick Polchak to investigate the forgotten graveyard. Polchak's orders are simple: figure out the mess. But Polchak, known as the "Bug Man" because of his knowledge of insects and their interaction with the dead, senses darker secrets buried beneath the soil--secrets that could derail the senator's presidential bid; secrets buried in the history of a quaint Virginia town; secrets someone is willing to kill to protect. With the help of a mysterious local woman named Alena and her uncanny cadaver dogs, Polchak sets out to dig up the truth. But with a desperate killer hot on his trail, he'll be lucky to wind up anything less than dead ...

To celebrate the new book, Downs is holding an "ugly dog" contest. If you think your dog has what it takes, check out the details at TitleTrakk's blog entry "Tim Downs' Less Than Dead Ugly Dog Contest!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Perilous times for publishing

New York Magazine outlines the problems facing book publishers today, where insiders are looking for their rescue, and even some high profile blunders of recent years:
"Have We Reached the End of Book Publishing As We Know It?"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lee Goldberg gets the stupidest emails

When I was in retail, I swear I was a magnet for all the crazy customers. However, among authors, Lee Goldberg seems to be the magnet. Click here for just the latest example: The Mail I Get

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL Two-Disc Special Edition

On Sep. 23, the film L.A. Confidential gets the special treatment, with a new two-disc DVD. While not quite as brilliant as James Ellroy's sprawling, epic novel, it is still a remarkable film deserving of all the accolades. According to DVDFanatic, the new DVD release will include: Audio Commentary by Critic Andrew Sarris; Music Only Track; multiple featurettes; "L.A. Confidential" 2000 TV-Series Pilot; Deleted Scenes; Trailers and TV Spots, and more.

Also coming out on DVD:
September 23
Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Definitive Collection
The Anderson Tapes
Boston Legal: Season 4
CSI: New York - The Fourth Season
The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration Gift Set
Peanuts Holiday Collection (Great Pumpkin / Charlie Brown Thanksgiving / Charlie Brown Christmas)

September 30
Adam 12: Season Two
B.L. Stryker: The Complete Series
Banacek: The Complete Series
Case Closed: Season 2 Set
Numbers: The Complete Fourth Season
Sports Night: The Complete Series 10th Anniversary Edition

October 7
Mission Impossible - The Fifth TV Season
Rear Window
Touch of Evil 50th Anniversary Edition

October 14
Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection (Lifeboat / Spellbound / Notorious / The Paradine Case / Sabotage / Young and Innocent / Rebecca / The Lodger)
CSI: Eighth Season
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Two-Disc)

October 21
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - The Complete Series
The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series
Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 4

Friday, September 19, 2008

Diagnosis Murder: The Death Merchant

This second volume of the official Diagnosis: Murder novels is another winner in the series. Author Lee Goldberg brings his experiences from the original television series to these books, but also takes advantage of the form: Without the limits of a television production -- budget, time, or casting -- Goldberg is free to explore Dr. Sloan's adventures on an epic scale. As such, these books do not limit their appeal to fans of the show, but are great entertainment for any mystery fan.


A dream vacation in Hawaii turns into a nightmare for Dr. Mark Sloan and his son, Steve, when a man they've befriended falls victim to a shark attack. But when Mark discovers evidence indicating the victim was murdered prior to becoming shark food, he and Steve comb the beaches to find a different kind of predator...

Official site at Berkley Prime Crime

Related links:
Mr. Monk and the Finished Manuscript
Back to Bond
Mr. Monk And The Continuity Police
Q&A: LEE GOLDBERG (Monk, Diagnosis Murder)

Murder She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders

Murder, She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders is the eighth volume in author Donald Bain's long-running series of official MURDER, SHE WROTE tie-ins -- a series with more than 30 original novels to date, and counting. When mystery novelist (and amateur sleuth) Jessica Fletcher and group of friends from Cabot Cove, Maine, take a vacation for the British Isles, they stay at a Scottish castle which is rumored to be haunted. Soon (of course) the gang is embroiled in murder and conspiracy.

Bain once again does a capable job of reuniting readers with these beloved characters, including several familiar faces from Cabot Cove. The story is engaging, and the mystery, while not as "fair-play" as some fans of the TV show might expect, is nonetheless rewarding.

Unfortunately, the experience is somewhat marred by occasions of sloppy logic and even sloppy language -- especially disconcerting when the narrator is supposed to be a professional wordsmith. A minor quibble, perhaps, when the Murder She Wrote books are clearly intended to be comfort food for fans of the groundbreaking TV series -- and, as such, worth the read.



Jessica Fletcher and a group of her friends from Cabot Cove, Maine, take off for the British Isles and end up at a castle in Scotland. It would be a great vacation – except for the ghost. And the murders.

Scotland’s most celebrated witch, executed long ago with a pitchfork through her heart, is said to haunt Inspector George Sutherland’s family castle in the village of Wick. It’s an intriguing tale and after a British book tour, Jessica accepts Sutherland’s invitation to bring her Cabot Cove friends to the heather-covered Highlands. Indeed, after “roamin’ in the gloamin’” with the handsome inspector, she spots a spectral woman in white in the gloomy castle. But Jessica’s blood runs cold when she later finds a local lass executed in the same way as the legendary witch. Something is very vile in Wick. It’s a castle of evil, greed, and murder that pits Jessica Fletcher against a killer from this world – or maybe the next.

Official site at Berkley Prime Crime
Official Murder, She Wrote on Facebook

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Home recuperating

Well, I turned in my manuscript for Nursing A Grudge: A Kentucky Geezers Mystery to my publisher and then Tuesday morning went into for my dental surgery. (Not fun.) Had my post-op visit this morning, and the dentist said things look pretty good. I'm scheduled to go back in 12 days and get my stitches out.

In the meantime, two weeks of liquids and soft foods. I plan to spend the rest of this week being really lazy: sleeping, watching DVDs, and reading.

Monday, I have to get cracking on the second Kentucky Geezers mystery, Burying The Hatchet ...

Related links:
Kentucky Geezers 2009
The humiliation of revisions
Mainly Mystery Interviews
Heartsong Presents Mysteries: The Authors!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mr. Monk and the Finished Manuscript

Novelist and TV writer/producer Lee Goldberg has turned in his eighth month Monk novel to his publisher. He shares the details here, Mr. Monk and the Finished Manuscript, and then in a later post answers the question What Happens After You Turn In Your Book?.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie!

Today is the birthday of Agatha Christie (1890-1976). The creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple has sold more than two billion copies in more than 45 languages. (She is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.)

Related links:
The official Agatha Christie website
MYSTERY! | Miss Marple | Agatha Christie
Audio: Agatha Christie's secret tapes discovered (Times Online)

Kentucky Geezers 2009

For those who missed the occasional update, I have three murder mysteries coming out in 2009 from cozy mystery publisher Heartsong Presents: Mysteries -- Nursing A Grudge, Burying The Hatchet, and Knocking 'Em Dead, collectively titled the "Kentucky Geezers Mysteries."

What I really love about the HPM printing model is that the books will be available through multiple streams: In spring and summer 2009, they will be available to HPM subscribers, and at that time likely also available as mail order from HPM directly.

After an interval of a few months, all three titles from my KENTUCKY GEEZERS trilogy will be available through retail, possibly as three separate books, but definitely as a 3-in-1 volume. I recently heard that the 3-in-1 volume KENTUCKY GEEZERS will be available in retail November 2009.

So, you have a lot of options there!

Obviously, we'll keep you posted as we get closer to our release dates. In the meantime, I have to continue working on the actual books. (In fact, my manuscript for Nursing A Grudge is due to HPM today.)

Related links:
The humiliation of revisions
Deadline City
Progress report ...
Mainly Mystery Interviews
Heartsong Presents Mysteries: The Authors!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sherlock Holmes lives!

In Saturday's Guardian, Ruth Rendell explains the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes:
A most serious and extraordinary problem

In related news, the Guardian also reports that Hollywood has two different Holmes films in production:
Robert Downey Jr to play Sherlock Holmes for Guy Ritchie
Borat creator Baron Cohen to play Holmes

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Brand new GIANT MONSTERS ...

To keep this blog focused on mystery fiction and related news, I have launched a second blog -- GIANT MONSTERS ON THE LOOSE -- for any bits of pop culture, sci-fi, and comics I may want to share with the world. Right out of the gate, we pass along some movies news ("Updates: Godzilla, Frankenstein, Ghostbusters"), list pretty much all the movies populated by giant monsters, robots, and killer dinosaurs ("Giant Monster Movies"), wax rhapsodic about the final Godzilla film ("GODZILLA: FINAL WARS"), and gush about Classic Media's brilliant Godzilla box set ("Giant Monsters Attack!").

Swing on by and give us a visit!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

'Fletch' author Mcdonald 1937-2008

Best-selling author Gregory Mcdonald, creator of the best-selling "Fletch" mysteries, passed away Sunday at his Tennessee farm. He was 71.

Mcdonald won back-to-back Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America for Fletch and Confess, Fletch, the only time a novel and its sequel were so honored. His 26 books also included the "Flynn" series, and he was a journalist with the Boston Globe.

If you have not enjoyed the pleasure of the Fletch or Flynn novels, they are highly recommended -- Mcdonald's snappy dialogue, clever plotting, and clean narrative is simply superb. Many mystery writers owe him a huge debt. (Some of my own readers will no doubt recognize his influence -- that is, when I did it right.)

Related links:
Manager: 'Fletch' author Gregory Mcdonald dies (AP)
Gregory Mcdonald, R.I.P. (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind)
Fletch Dies (A Writer's Life)
Gregory Mcdonald, Novelist, Dies at 71 (New York Times)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The humiliation of revisions

Okay, so I am up to my knees in what will be the final revision of Nursing a Grudge before I turn it in to my publisher on Monday. We've reached the part of the process where I have called on for the help of my sisters-in-law, who are excellent at picking my books apart and finding all the stuff that needs to be fixed.

As necessary as it is to edit the manuscript -- cutting out what doesn't belong, adding what you should have put in already, fixing continuity problems, smoothing out what is left, and just general fine-tuning -- there is still something about the whole process that tends to be humiliating. (At least, if you're doing it right.)

Of course, turning in the manuscript is not the end of the journey ... because then your editor will find still more stuff you need to fix.

Related links:
Deadline City
Progress report ...
Mainly Mystery Interviews

Monday, September 08, 2008

Win a STACK of mysteries!

The ladies at Mainly Mystery Reviews have teamed up with Heartsong Mysteries to offer one lucky reader a stack of TWENTY-FOUR cozy murder mystery books. Check out the details here:

Free audiobook of HOUSE OF WOLVES

Thriller writer Matt Bronleewe is offering a free audiobook for his latest pulse-pounding novel, House of Wolves (Thomas Nelson). That's not all: his friend Matt Stanfield put together an amazing musical score, which is available as a free soundtrack.

About the book:

In the twelfth century, Henry the Lion collected the rarest relics in Christendom. And to protect his most precious acquisitions, he encoded the whereabouts in a gorgeous illuminated manuscript called The Gospels of Henry the Lion. No one knows where the relic has been hidden ... or its ultimate power.

Only one man holds the key to the mystery. He's carrying it in his briefcase at his son's school for show-and-tell, and he thinks it's a fake. But he's about to find out just how real it is.

The wolves are closing in. If August Adams can't decode the secret in time, the world's balance of power will be forever altered ...

Ask for it at your local bookseller!

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Novelist Eric Wilson recently sent this around to his email list:

facing off
_____ Sept. 2 and Oct. 7_________
2 books--2 incredible stories--2 winners

Okay, that's my cheesy showdown, but who would've guessed my most controversial title and my most ministry-oriented title would be released within a month of each other? You know that whole thing about God having a sense of humor . . . ? Yeah!

Fireproof the movie will be in theaters Friday, Sept 26. It's a powerful story about the fight to keep love and faith alive in the midst of the flames.

Buy Field of Blood before Oct. 21, and you can win an autographed copy of the sequel, Haunt of Jackals. Simply e-mail me the date and place you bought the book, and you'll be included in the drawing, with a chance to be one of the five winners.

Go to and you can find a printable reading group guide for Field of Blood under the Trilogy tab, not to mention some cool fan artwork.

I'll be at book stores in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas in October and November. I'd love to see you there. Check either of my websites, under The Latest or Appearances for detailed info.

If you'd like to be a Concealed One, look under the Author tab on for clues. If you're already a Concealed One, remember you are concealed, but we are not silent . . . Spread the word. The Nazarene Blood will prevail!

Sign up for Eric's email list at his official website.

Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction


A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at Watch the trailer on YouTube.