Author Q & A: Mark Gilleo

In addition to reviewing his book today, author Mark Gilleo kindly agreed to me asking him a few questions. So without further delay please welcome Mark to the blog.

Q.  Sweat is your second novel, was it easier to write than Love Thy Neighbour, or with one novel under your belt, did number two come easier?

A.  Believe it or not, I wrote Sweat prior to writing Love Thy Neighbor. I wouldn’t typically mention this, but if you research the William Faulkner-Wisdom competition, and do a little sleuthing, the information is already out there. That said, neither book was “easy” to write. When I am in writing mode, I spend a fair bit of time pacing in circles, mumbling to myself. I am equally apt to cut a conversation off in mid-sentence and scramble for a note pad. And while things may not get easier from one book to another, I would like to think on some level that I am becoming a little more efficient. I do enjoy the task of writing. I look forward to seeing where the story is going to take me, much like a reader would but in a more connected way. Editing, on the other hand, is awful.

Q.  The sweatshop scenes, and those in the Senate seemed very realistic. How did you research these?

A.  The sweatshop scenes were half based on experience and half from imagination. When I lived in Asia I was fortunate enough to travel within the region. On one of those trips I visited a furniture manufacturing facility in Taiwan. (A good friend of mine was a Japanese businessman who had furniture providers in mainland China, Taiwan and a few other places.) The “facility” we visited in Taiwan was in a rural area a couple of hours from Taipei. When we arrived, it was lunchtime, and it was a hundred degrees. All of the workers were lying on benches, sleeping on unfinished furniture. The place was pretty spartan. That is where the experience portion of the sweatshop scenes came from. (I would like to stress that these factories were not sweatshops, they merely provided the mental imagery of what a sweatshop could very easily look like.)

I think the research portion of the Senate was largely a result of growing up the DC area. I was not really aware of the “Mark-Up” process involved on Capitol Hill and the topic was so surprising that I included it in detail in “Sweat.” For the physical buildings, I have been inside many of those I included in the book, so the description aspect was largely based on experience. For the inner workings of congressional hearings and proceedings, I watched CSPAN. When I woke up later with the remote controller in my hand, and the same congressman still on the screen, I figured that part of the research had been exhausted.

Q.  Were you intending to raise awareness of sweatshops, and do you think governments are doing enough with respect to conditions outside of their direct territorial control?

A.  It wasn’t my original intention to raise awareness regarding sweatshops, but that would be a by-product of the book I would certainly welcome. When I first started Sweat, believe it or not, a Senator was not involved. The story only involved a businessman. But as I started writing the story, and consequently doing research as I went, I ended up learning quite a bit about US territories, labor law, etc. There was also a lawsuit a few years ago involving Saipan and some major US clothing manufacturers. So the pieces sort of fell in place as the story unfolded at the keyboard.

I can’t really speak to whether or not the government is doing enough to prevent sweatshop conditions within U.S. Territories. We all know about accusations of major US companies using sweatshop labor, or underage labor, in various locations around the globe. I think it becomes hard to prevent proactively. I am sure when companies expand overseas there are promises made and standards to be enforced, and everyone agrees to abide by the law. I am equally sure that once a manufacturing facility is established, it becomes very difficult to ensure that standards are being followed. But to some degree all parties must realize the potential for abuse is there. And once abuse is discovered, it needs to be corrected.

Q.  Terrorism and sweatshops are not exactly lightweight topics, what can your readers expect from your next book?

A.  I think everyone is going to have to stay tuned for the next book for the answer to that question. All I will say is the next book will also take place in the DC area.

Guest Post From Peter Leonard, Author of Voices of the Dead

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I’ve been lucky enough to review “Voices of the Dead” by Peter Leonard, as part of his tour with Partners In Crime Tours.

Peter Leonard also kindly agreed to a short guest post as part of the tour. Now some of the readers here may not know that Peter Leonard is Elmore Leonard’s son. Of course that raises some interesting questions about how his dad has influenced his writing, but I guess that’s the predictable question, so I thought I’d asked something related but different.

I posed the question:

“Other than your Dad, which other writers do you admire, and who has influenced your own writing the most?”

So please welcome to my electronic scrapbook, Mr Peter Leonard. Here’s what he had to say:

Dear Alan,

Hemingway and Steinbeck were big influences, Hemingway’s simple style that puts in the center of the action, and Steinbeck’s ability to paint a picture of a character with very little description. I was also influenced by George V. Higgins’ crime masterpiece, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. The characters are real and the dialogue is perfect. 

I admire Jim Harrison. I remember reading Legends of the Fall, thinking the three novellas therein were among the best I’d ever read. I read Michael Connolly and think he’s as good as anyone writing crime fiction today. I had my James Lee Burke phase, loved the early Dave Robicheaux novels, especially Heavens Prisoners. I’m a big fan of Philip Roth and John Updike. I read a lot but can’t think of anyone who has made a big impression of late. 

 

All the best,

Peter Leonard

You can find out more about Peter Leonard’s writing, and some of his other books at his website.

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Guest Post From James Le Pore: Where Do Crime Writers Get Their Inspiration From?

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As well as having the opportunity to review James Le Pore’s novel, “Gods and Fathers”; today I also have the pleasure of welcoming the author for a special guest post.

Being a long term reader of crime fiction I’ve often wondered where authors get their inspiration from, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask my guest the following: 

“I’ve often been told that a writer should write about what they know. So how does a crime writer get to know so much stuff? Are there actually a lot of talented criminals out there with double lives?”

And here is his response. Please welcome Mr James Le Pore to my electronic scrapbook…

            Alan,

            I began at around the age of ten or eleven to read several newspapers every day. My parents brought The New York Post, Daily News and National Enquirer home daily from their forays into the world. The crime stories in particular stirred my young and over-heated imagination. I read them even before turning to the sports pages. I then discovered—at the corner candy store—noir fiction, people like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald, and, as I grew older—in real bookstores—Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard and Walter Mosley. Later I became addicted (and still am) to docu-drama crime shows on television. Somewhere along the way, the workings of the criminal mind, from the banal to the ingenious, must have transferred into that part of my DNA that eventually led me to start writing myself.  

            My novels are not primarily about crime though. Though my plots are driven by bad acts and bad actors, and the building of suspense, I am equally concerned with the mysteries of the human heart, and the concept of redemption. Why do we seem to hurt the ones we love the most? Why do they forgive us? Why do we choose the paths we choose, especially the wrong ones? Why is it that only pain leads to growth?  

            I have come to believe that ‘write what you know’ does not mean write about flying if you are a pilot, or write about the law if you are a lawyer. It means write about the things you know in your heart, like the pain of love gone wrong, or the reasons why we like or dislike ourselves as human beings. Writers need framing devices, and authenticity is of course important, so writing about the empirical things you know is a good idea, but there is great drama buried in the heart. The best stories, I believe, center around flawed people who, caught up in dangerous situations, are forced to resolve both internal and external conflicts in order to finally align with their true destinies. This is what I try my best to accomplish. 

Jim LePore

Venice, Florida

January 30, 2012

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Guest Post From Chuck Waldron, Author of Remington & the Mysterious Fedora

Here’s the story behind Remington & the Mysterious Fedora.  The seed was planted during a conversation.  That real conversation blossomed into a fantasy about a young man who thinks he may have discovered a short-cut to success, only to find that there is always a price to be paid.

There was a reference to a typewriter in the conversation and someone remarked they had never seen one.  Something as ubiquitous as a typewriter, used by generations to put word on paper, is now relegated to being an exhibit in museums.  Traces typewriters live on, however.  Look at computer keyboards, smart phones and tablets, with the recognizable QWERTY layout.  But, where have all the typewriters gone?

Woody Allen has typed every joke, script and writing on a manual typewriter he bought as a teen.  He literally cuts, tapes and pastes the old-fashioned way.  Me, I’m glad I can do it on a computer.

But, I want to get back to that conversation about typewriters.  It led me to imagine a young man, Josh, who finds an old manual typewriter in a junk shop.  He cleans it up and actually gets it to working.  It wouldn’t be complete, however, if he didn’t have an old fedora to go with it.  After all, didn’t all the reporters in the 1940’s black and white movies wear fedoras while they typed?

When he puts the fedora on, the hat whispers a story to him while he types.  He realizes it may be a gift, the short-cut to an award winning novel.  Josh is on his way to an adventure he never expected.  Will the magic fedora bring him fame, or will the story bring him face to face with the reality that all things in life have a price?

I hope you read Remington & the Mysterious Fedora and see if you agree with this from a young adult reader named Ryan.

“I’m actually VERY enthralled by the book. Both your plotlines of Josh, Tracey and Kelsey, Blaze and Star are equally intoxicating.  Usually, when I read a novel like Remington that uses multiple plotlines, I tend to get bored and find one of them boring, waiting for the chapter to end. With Remington, this is not the case!

 At the end of every chapter, I said to myself “Damn! I want to know what happens next!”  I loved the fast pace, the gripping story and the novel’s ability to make me smile.

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U.S. born, Canadian novelist Chuck Waldron is currently working on his fourth novel, a thriller about an investigative blogger who uncovers more than he ever imagines…and has no idea what to do with his discovery.

His first novel, Tears in the Dust, is a mystery set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War in 1937.  When Alestair Ferguson volunteers to fight in the International Brigade he doesn’t realize the true price he will have to pay.  Chuck’s second novel, Remington and the Mysterious Fedora, is a quirky fantasy, a story about what happens when a young man sits at the keyboard of a manual typewriter and puts on an old fedora.  When the fedora and its mysterious power begins to whisper a story to him, the young man has a strange adventure indeed.  His third novel, Served Cold, spans decades and stretches from the countryside of rural Ontario to a quiet artists’ studio in Tucson, Arizona.  With lots of murder and mayhem in between, the story is what happens when a long-standing feud erupts into hot-blooded vengeance.

Chuck wrote over thirty short stories before setting out to write novels that are affordable and entertaining.  He has attended writing workshops in Iowa, Florida, Georgia and Ontario, Canada.

“I grew up,” Chuck said, “listening to my grandfather, an Ozark Mountain story teller, spinning tales of the caves on his farm, describing them as hiding places once used by the Jesse & Frank James’ gang.  It didn’t matter if the stories were true or not.  Those legends set fire to my imagination, creating images that emerged slowly over the years, finally igniting as my short stories and novels.”

Now, thirty-plus short stories and three novels later, ideas keep coming, with more novels under development.  Do they share anything in common?  Each has its own unique voice and tale to tell, yet, at their heart, his stories tell about the human condition – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Chuck adds, “stored images that echo in my writing include train whistles in the night, Norman Rockwell childhood scenes, U.S. Army memories, blue collar jobs, university, a professonal career, and finally retirement.  Many of my images are drawn from this pool of memories: places visited, sights seen, and people met.  The rest I filled in with my imagination: dreams of places yet to be visited, sights yet to be seen, and people yet to be met.”

His literary roots were planted in the American Midwest and thrived when transplanted – over thirty-nine years ago – to the rich, cultural soil of Ontario.  He and his wife, Suzanne, spend their summers in Kitchener, Ontario and are warmed by a winter sun in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

You can visit Chuck at http://www.writebyme.ca and at www.chuckwaldron.com.     Visit him at Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/writebyme and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wordstir.

About Remington & The Mysterious Fedora

Surprise is in store when, in the back of a strange used goods store, Josh finds an old Remington typewriter and a fedora with some very mysterious powers. As Josh embarks on his first novel writing adventure, he finds that his new hat has its own story to tell – of a time before history began – and is quite demanding of Josh’s attention. As the story consumes him, Josh’s life begins to unravel, and he soon finds he is unable to separate himself from the hat and the story. When the last page is written, Josh is left with more questions than answers…both about the story and his own life.

Read the first chapter here.

Giveaways, Contests & Prizes! 

To celebrate the release of Chuck Waldron’s new fantasy novel, Remington & The Mysterious Fedora, he is offering one free paperback copy of his book at Pump Up Your Book’s 1st Annual Holiday Extravaganza Facebook Party on December 16.  More than 50 books, gifts and cash awards will be given away! Click here for details! 

 

Guest Post From Benjamin Wallace: Writer By Night!

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Benjamin Wallace to my blog, I reviewed Ben’s book “Dumb White Husband Vs. The Grocery Store” a while a go.  Like me Ben is a writer with a “Day Job”, and Ben discusses how he gets his writing done.  I’m taking notes, because I think I can learn a lesson or two.

Please everyone welcome Ben to the Electronic Scrapbook!

Writer by Night

 People constantly ask me how I find the time to write. I tell them I’m a writer by night.

Writer by night. Browse around Twitter a bit and you’ll see this phrase in more than a few bios. It’s kind of romantic isn’t it? As if quill and parchment sit before the impassioned author as the flame of a candle flicks and the muse strums a lire over the literary genius’ shoulder. 

I’m a writer by night.

 There is no power on Earth that can make me a morning person. If I woke up early to write, my works would be filled with senselessly violent scenes that explored the different sounds a coffee urn would make if it was used to punch someone in the face. And, while that specific scene will now make it into one of my books, such a singular focus on coffee pot face-punching would not make for a lasting career.

I can’t write during the day. That’s when I’m at what has now become known as my day job. They want me to do stuff that isn’t my stuff. And, since they still keep the lights on and bellies full, I can hardly protest. It is still the day job that I shouldn’t quit.

My evenings are dedicated to my family for two reasons. 1) Because they’re pretty cool. I’ve got three kids and they all have stories about what they did during the day, they have pictures that they’ve colored for me and they have new theories about super heroes that, if they don’t share, will cause them to explode. 2) Hollywood has convinced me that if I don’t spend time with them they will all grow up to be criminals or I will have to endure some formulaic life swap with another man to truly appreciate the life I already have. I don’t have time for any life swapping. 

So, I’m a writer by night. I tuck in the kids, feed the dogs, yell at the kids to get back into bed, disappear into a home office (which I share with the dogs), step back out to tell the kids to get back into bed and type until I’m exhausted, stopping only to tell the kids to get back into bed. Should the lire-playing muse ever visit me I have no doubt that I would yell at her and threaten to shove the lire places if she didn’t knock off the racket.

Sometimes when I tell people this they still don’t understand it. So, I tell them that I’ve learned a lot being a writer by night. But, there are some things I haven’t learned. I haven’t learned who the next American Idol is. I haven’t learned which bar has the best happy hour. I haven’t learned what the producers/writers/key grips of Lost have been up to. I haven’t learned a thing about what hours the gym is open. Though I probably have learned about the internet video where the dog is dressed as a Wampa. (I’m only human)

Writer by night means writer by night. There’re a lot of us out there. And we love to talk about it. So ask us. But don’t ask us what the score was, who won a Grammy, or if we caught so and so on Letterman/Kimmel/The Daily Show. We don’t know. We were busy writing. By night.   

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Benjamin Wallace is the author of the bestselling action/adventure comedies Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors (A Duck and Cover Adventure) and Tortugas Rising as well as the Dumb White Husband short stories. You can learn more at benjaminwallacebooks.com or follow him on twitter @BenMWallace

Guest Post From Laurel Dewey: My Writing Workspace

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I think every writer has a space where they write best, so it’s a question that I frequently ask other writers, partly to see if I can pick up any tips (mine is sitting on a couch in our conservatory, looking out over the garden), but also because I am that little bit nosey too!

I was delighted when Laurel Dewey agreed to guest post here as part of book tour and review of Promissory Payback and Unrevealed, so for me to ask her about her workspace was of course an obvious question.

So anyway, enough blather from me, over to Laurel:

My Writing Workspace

By Laurel Dewey

            For me, writing a book is like a relationship. You make a commitment and in order for it to be as successful as possible, a good environment is necessary. Think about it—if you start a relationship in the midst of chaos and debris, it might lack a certain necessary clarity as it progresses.

Thus, after months (or even years) of researching a book and after drafting the massive outline, it’s time to actually sit down and get what’s in my head onto the page. For me, that process always begins with a massive cleaning project centered on my workspace. It’s like preparing the area that I’ll be living in (yes, that’s almost literal) for six months or longer for the relationship between my computer and my imagination. Clutter never works when I’m starting out so I pull everything off the desk, discard what shouldn’t be there, file what I want at arm’s length and form neat little stacks of notes, folders and the like.

I then wash the large window that I look out of, giving it a sparkle it hasn’t seen since starting the last book. The same thing goes for the myriad of hanging crystals and cherished rock gemstones I’ve acquired over the years. The rough-cut crystals, raw citrine, calcite and amethyst and more are supposed to confer heightened creativity. I’m not sure if that’s true but I’m not going to risk it and get rid of them now.

When I put everything back on the desk, I do it with great purpose and intention. The coffee cup will always be placed in front of my phone but the combo of astragalus and ginseng that I make every morning and pour into my special insulated teacup goes in a different spot. Yes, yes, I can get very anal about that in the beginning of my projects. The three large penholders have also been cleaned out and all the old, dried up pens are tossed out. I even have my favorite candles that smell like coffee and sandalwood right next to me and plan on lighting to create more atmosphere. The same thing goes for the bowl of sand that holds just one of the many hundreds of pungent incense sticks I’ve bought over the years.

I then carefully place my husband’s photos in front of the window, stand back and admire what a neat and organized person I am.

Then I start to write. And something odd begins to happen. The beautiful order and system I’ve created gradually collapses. A month goes by and then two months and the desk is looking a bit chaotic. The carpet around my chair is stacked with folders that hold hundreds of pages of notes. I could attempt to vacuum the area but why bother? I’d have to lift up everything and where would I put it? Where once there was a glorious three feet or more of empty space on my desk, now I’m lucky to find eighteen inches that is free of paper, bills that need to be paid, more paper, unread catalogs, yet more paper, calendars, checkbooks, books and other odd assortments that don’t belong there. I once found a lonely doorknob in the mess and I have no clue how it got there.

Going into month three, it looks like a nuclear bomb hit. Dead flies, bees and yellow jackets litter the windowsill, the phone, the good luck crystals and the stacks of files. There’s nothing that isn’t dusty, including the computer screen. None of the candles have ever been lit because I remembered that I can be clumsy sometimes and shift paper around too close to the candle flame. The incense is only a quarter of the way burned down because I forgot how I start to choke on the aroma if the windows aren’t wide open. The trashcan has been overflowing for at least three weeks. I can’t find anything by this point except the teacups and coffee mugs.  I say that with the plural because instead of washing them, I just bring in a new one and allow the old ones to gather dust and collect more dead flies. It’s a disaster zone, but I’m still writing and the relationship has hit that period where you find out what each of you are made of. The question becomes can I function within the chaos after having that brief, sweet moment of pristine beauty that began this journey? The answer is usually “yes” and when it’s all done, I sit back and shake my head at all the upheaval around me.

No worries. I’ll start the process all over again and swear it’s going to be different the next time. Really, it will. I promise. 

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Guest Post From No.1 Bestselling Author Vincent Zandri: So are You Indy or Anal?

Today I welcome bestselling author Vincent Zandri to the blog, but you’re probably not here to read my words, so I’m handing over to the master:

If I had a nickle for every time I got asked the question, “Are you a seat-of-the-pants kind of writer?” In other words, am I an “Indiana Jones” who just adventurously barrels ahead without mapping out my scenes ahead of time in the hopes of allowing my story to form naturally or what all the no-gluten-professor geeks at writing school call, “organically?” Or do you actually write up character sketches that include everything from place of birth to bathroom habits, and then map out each chapter detail for detail? The answer I give is not really an answer. “It depends on the book,” I tell them. “And it also depends on the character.” If I’m writing a book like THE REMAINS that’s intended to be stand-alone literary thriller that contains subject matter such as identical twins, modern art and autistic savants and that is also told from the P.O.V. of a women, you can bet your bottom ten-spot that I’m gonna plan it out ahead of time. I’m also going to do some meticulous research so that reviewers on Amazon don’t crucify me. In the end if I’ve done my job right and the writing is convincing enough, I just might have a bestseller on my hands. And THE REMAINS has been just that. A bestseller for over a year.

But if I’m writing a novel like one of the Dick Moonlight Serials, now that’s another story altogether. The Richard “Dick” Moonlight of MOONLIGHT FALLS MOONLIGHT MAFIA, and the forthcoming MOONLIGHT RISES and MURDER BY MOONLIGHT is a total train wreck of a guy. He’s got a little piece of .22 caliber bullet lodged inside his brain from a failed suicide attempt. The piece has lodged itself right beside his cerebral cortex causing him the occasional short term memory lapse and lack of judgement, especially under times of stress, which is usually always. He drinks too much, and he can also pass out at any time or even suffer stroke, coma and death. In a word, Moonlight has no clue if he’ll be alive from one minute to the next. So his relentless search for right over wrong is always an unplanned adventure. Since he narrates all of his own stories, I feel the best way to write his books is to do so by the seat-of-my-pants. And thus far anyway, you loyal readers of mine (you know who you are), have sort of fallen in love with the dude. And that’s a cool thing since he’s the character who is most like me. So what’s the best way for you to write your book? Remember when you’d ask you mom or dad what was for dinner, and not having decided on anything yet, they might ask you in return, “Well what do you feel like?” A lot of what we decide to put in our body is based not only on a craving but more so on what our bodies are lacking at that time. If we’re protein starved we want meat or chicken. If were worn out and carb poor, we want pasta or even pizza. It’s the same with writing. Listen to you body and your brain, but most of all listen to your gut. Not your gut mind you, but the gut inside your main character. Is he or she someone who will want to be guided and reigned in? Or is he or she someone who won’t plan for the next five minutes much less two afternoons from now? Just remember, writing is a personal venture and there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only just doing it.

Visit Vincent Zandri (that’s me!) at Amazon’s Author Central: (they asked me to say that!)

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Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling author of the thrillers THE INNOCENTGODCHILDMOONLIGHT FALLSTHE REMAINS andCONCRETE PEARL. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, he has was a Stringer for The Albany Times Union Newspaper, and a contributor toNew York NewsdayHudson Valley MagazineGame and Fish Magazine, and more. His short fiction has appeared in many of the leading journals and magazines, Orange County Magazine, Buffalo Spree, Negative Capability, The Maryland ReviewRosebudThe Best of RosebudLost Creek Lettersamong them. His novels, stories, and journalism have been translated into many foreign languages including the Dutch, Japanese, French, Russian and Turkish. A freelance photo-journalist, foreign correspondent, and Blogger for RTGlobalspec and International Business Times, he divides his time between New York and Florence, Italy. 

For more on the author, go to WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM.

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