Thursday, September 16, 2010

Five Myths about pitbulls.

Pit Bulls are the most misunderstood and maligned dog in America. The majority of dogs identified as pit bulls in dog bite charges are in fact, not pit bulls. The average person can't identify a pit bull. Check the link out below if you think this statement is wrong. I'm pretty familiar with the breed and it took me several tries and even then I was guessing.

Top 5 Myths about Pit Bulls

Think you know how to recognize a pit bull? Go ahead and try:

Find the Pitbull

Friday, September 10, 2010

How far would you go?

We're all writers. Just being a writer requires certain levels of commitment. This often means making sacrifices of time and other parts of our lives. For many of us it also means spending money. If we're published, it can mean spending our royalties on promotion and things like conferences.

I still do most of my promotion online. I have chosen to spend my royalties on writing conferences and workshops. So far I have been to two conferences, Left Coast Crime in Los Angeles and Bloody Words in Toronto. In another two weeks I will be heading for North Carolina to attend Lee Lofland's Writers Police Academy so I can further my research into police procedure and get some hands on experience that will be invaluable for my contemporary crime novels.

Then next month I will be attending a week long workshop given by James Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel and How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, both writing books in my top 5. I'm really looking forward to it, and even though committing to the workshop is taking a hit out of my finances I hadn't planned on, I couldn't pass up such a golden opportunity to learn from one of the industries best. I'll eat beans for a month, I think it's worth it.

Next year I already have plans to go to Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe in March, and to Los Angeles in April, possibly to go to RT, but if not to the conference, I intend to spend a month there for research purposes.

I'm not wealthy by any means, and I'm sure others would look at such expenditures as foolish. I see it as an important step in my desire to be a better writer, To produce finer prose and tell better stories. I'm willing to invest my time and money toward that goal. I guess if I had to answer my own question, the answer would be "As far as I can."

What about you? How far would you go for your career?

P.A. Brown
GK Parker

Monday, August 9, 2010

Guest Blog by Mykola Dementiuk

In 100 Whores, Memories of a John, by 2010 Lambda Award-winning writer Mykola Dementiuk, we are treated to a voice of rarely heard transgressive fiction, the voice of a sexually confused young man who visits New York City street whores, hooks up with men and boys in Times Square movie theaters, yet all the while attempts to have normal relationships with men and with women.

The first 100 stories are short, just like the experiences that inspired them. Revealing the inside secrets of picking up a street hooker and what happens after you do, Dementiuk is sparse with words but prolific in his sexual contacts. Following “100 Whores” are five short stories, full of unexpected action, humor, and unforgettable characters. The novella “Christmas Whore” concludes this volume of reality-based fiction with a longer treatment of bisexual angst and “queer” behavior.

The unusual story lines provide psychologically intense views of a disturbed young man in a not-so-pretty world of poverty, menial work, and sex pick-ups of a strange nature. All the stories take place in New York settings, including Times Square, Midtown, East River Park, and the Lower East Side.

100 Whores, Memories of a John
Synergy Press (July, 2010)
ISBN: 0-9758581-8-1


From #4 - Variety Photoplays:

Variety Photoplays stood on 3rd Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets as if boasting to all the shoddy and riff-raff abodes down below 6th Street on the Bowery. The old movie house was a denizen of vaudeville and burlesque followed by monster and cornball comedies that weren’t so funny any more, but it was my favorite place to go when I didn’t have much money to spend on girls. You could always see a picture from a few years before keeping you somewhat up to date. It wasn’t that expensive, either.

Up front you would be left alone, except for the guys going in and out of the bathrooms, which were in the front. The prospective urinators disturbed your picture watching, but in the back rows or upstairs your cock stood up at the ready, to be used and lavished by the queer guys hanging about, ready to take you any way you let them.

I had done it a number of times but always as a last horny resort, my longing being for women. But a mouth is a mouth, I figured, as long as it was smooth with fragrant aftershave; you just closed your eyes and let the feeling take over.

One early rainy afternoon, the other kids still in school, I went to the balcony where I saw a blonde hairdo shining from the seats. Instantly my penis was stiff and I was ecstatic. No one sat next to her, but hell, even with a boyfriend (if there was one going off to get her a Coke), the risk would have been worth it.

I nearly took a step back when I entered the seat next to her: an obvious guy made up as a girl, his stubbled face covered by makeup so thin that it seemed to force the shadow of his chin that much clearer and certain. I shrugged and settled in the seat next to her; there was no threat of a boyfriend returning, I was sure of that.

We looked at each other and she had a nice-looking blowjob mouth. My arm went round her shoulder, and somehow her shoulder strap came undone and fell down on my arm. That increased the stimulation I was getting from her and pretending what she was.

Suddenly, I heard loud female heels pounding behind me and a rough female-mimicking voice exclaiming, “Well, Miss Pretty, I was sitting there!”

I looked at what I saw standing there, a caricature of a female but obviously a man made-up, no matter how weakly, to look like a girl. Two girlfriends at a picture show, I thought. Where else but at the Variety?

I smirked and got up.

“Aw, don’t go,” said the queen, who was pushing her way to the seat I was leaving. “This was getting interesting.”

“Please, stay, baby,” gushed the first heavy-voiced mimic, joining her friend.

I blushed and made my way outside. Evening was slowly coming on and the whores were everywhere.

From #9 – Delinquent:

Man, she was young! Even younger then I was, and at seventeen I thought I was a full-grown man but she was what? maybe fourteen, fifteen, but certainly not a whoring woman.

Plus there was an aura of play about her, like she was dreaming of lollipops and dolls and little girl’s clothes, which I was sure she wasn’t going to find on 3rd Avenue and 13th Street.

I stood on the corner watching her pace about. Our eyes met a few times but I just stood there, let the whore come to me, I thought. Pretty soon that’s what she did.

She was heavily made up with lipstick and mascara that lined her mouth and eyes like some character from a comic book; she didn’t look real at all.

“You looking for a woman?” she said, not looking at me but at my mouth. I wanted to say, Yeah, you know of one? But I just grinned.

“Twenty dollars, mister.” she said, “Take it or leave it.”

As she talked I noticed her glance down the street several times; a teenage thug stood there, sucking on a cigarette.

Shit! I looked the other way. “Where at?” I asked, “The hotel? . . . ”

“Ah, no,” she hesitated, biting her lower lip. “Let’s go there,” nodding in the direction of her boyfriend thug, I assumed.

No way was I going to walk the street toward him! “Sorry, sister,” I said and walked away.

“Motherfucker!” I heard behind me and a torrent of Spanish curses. I did not turn around to see if her boy-friend thug came up the street. I quickly and quietly went home and jerked off.

From Christmas Whore:

“SO YOU’VE BROUGHT YOUR FAIRY LOVER home, you turd,” said Judy. I hadn’t even heard her come in: I was too busy ejaculating onto Sunny.

A smart smile played on her lips, but I saw nothing but hatred. It was difficult to get caught like that, and all I could do was step away from Sunny and pull my cock back in my zipper, feeling like an idiot.

“What fairy?” I said. “Sunny’s not a fairy . . . ”

Judy looked at the nervous Sunny and snorted. “Skinny, but I suppose you like them like that,” she said. “And wearing my clothes too,” she snorted again. “A little too big on her, at that.”

I’d had enough of this. “We just came for my radio, that’s all. If you don’t mind, we’ll get out of here.”

“Like hell, you will,” Judy said. “Not in my clothes, you don’t. Or maybe that’s what you really wanted anyway. . . . ” She smirked at Sunny. “You know he likes women’s clothes. He loves to shoot his scum all over them. He likes them better than the woman in them. Isn’t that right?”

I got very embarrassed. “You’re crazy.” I left her closet area and went to get my radio.

“Crazy?” she said, coming after me. “For six months all you did was rub against me. Now you got your transvestite girl friend in the other room, are you rubbing against her, too? Or do you go to Times Square for that?”

I said, “Fuck off!” and was about to leave the room when I saw Sunny standing in the doorway; I guess the fact that she was so skinny made Judy take her for a transvestite.

“You rubbed against your sister?” Sunny said, looking very ill at ease.

Judy broke out laughing. “Sister? Oh god, that takes the cake! A brother fake-fucking his fake sister!”

“You’re not brother/sister?” said Sunny.

“Why? Did he tell you we were?” asked Judy.

I was very red-faced as Sunny nodded her head.

“Is that what he tells his fairy friends?” asked Judy. “And you’re stupid enough to believe him.”

I could see Sunny bristling, her lips tightly clenched and her face growing pale from anger. “I told you,” she said, looking guilty. “I’m not a fairy, alright?”

The two of them exchanged glaring looks, like they were measuring each other up for final purchase or exchange or a good fight; I didn’t like their looks one bit.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” I said, but they just kept looking at each other and strangely they both turned red and looked away. What the fuck is going on? I wondered. Certainly lesbians, if not worse — like man-killers, I bet.

100 Whores

To purchase, click here

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fall Into the Night

Fall Into The Night is an epic science fiction, a journey of discovery. Here two parties who will embark on that journey meet for the first time. The Cyxers are from a matriarchal society. Everything on their planet is deadly. They live in isolation on the planet Cyx, trapped in a world they can't fix and they can't leave, hoping some day to have the means to terraform the poisonous world into someplace livable.


Captain Terik u Selhdun has known darkness all of his life. Captain of the Necromancer, the ruler of Tiamat, his ancestral home, he is coerced into taking a small group of scientists in search of the legendary birthplace of humanity. Earth -- Terra -- was lost to history during the Exodus. From the beginning trouble dogs the expedition, from a failed assassination attempt to the manipulations of a despotic Suzerain and a brutal Navy Admiral who have no intention of letting Selhdun or his mission succeed.


The tropical sky was a cloudless blue that hurt Lyssra’s eyes. She let the press of the crowd move her along the broad walkway, and tried to keep Ilesha and Benin in sight. Only when the mass dispersed and the flat walk cleared was she able to catch up to them.

Ilesha and Benin hugged the shade and she saw Ilesha rub her arms where the sun touched her. Goose bumps crowded her own skin where the heated breeze brushed against it. She had to keep reminding herself this wasn’t Cyx. The air didn’t hold anything harmful.

Groundcars and freight trams moved along orderly roads around the base of the massive Ladder that dropped from the sky. Crowds filled the grounds, spilling out of fashionable shops and restaurants that Lyssra knew were beyond her meager purse.

No matter how harmless she knew it was, the sun on her exposed skin made her want to find a shielded building to hide in. She could tell by their soft muttering that Benin and Ilesha shared her uneasiness.

She scanned the crowds. Selhdun had said he would meet them at the dirtside hotel called the Ambassador near the Ladder. She watched a group of children pass, a trio of laughing caretakers struggling to maintain order among the half dozen boys and girls. The children’s high-pitched voices filled the soft tropical air.

She heard one of them squeal, "Oh, look, Theanna, a butterfly. Can we catch it and take it back with us? "

Lyssra looked around. The hotel should be here. The sign was high enough to see over the head of the oversized man who was just climbing out of a small, three-wheeled vehicle.

A piercing scream sent a bolt of pure adrenaline through Lyssra. Spinning around, she got Ilesha’s elbow in the chest, knocking the breath out of her lungs. Ilesha batted at her when Lyssra tried to pin her arms to her side. The younger woman’s panic was contagious; Lyssra heard the high-pitched voices of children yelling nearby.


Ilesha screamed again, and this time Lyssra saw the source of her terror. Something fluttered through the air over the children huddled beneath the protective embrace of their caretakers. It moved over their bare heads back toward Lyssra.

One of the children reached for it. Her caretaker pulled her back, hustling the group away from the Cyxers, and the multi-colored menace.

"Butterfly..." the girl said.

With a shudder Lyssra jumped back, slamming into Ilesha, the two of them going down in a heap of curses and swinging arms.

Cat-quick, Ilesha rolled and came up in a crouch, holding her carryon in front of her as she tore it open and pulled out the short-bladed knife she used in her herbal preparations. She lunged for the attacking creature, connecting instead with a man’s muscular chest. Lyssra sat up in time to see him push Ilesha to the ground and press his booted foot down on her wrist, trapping her knife arm on the hard ground.

Ilesha’s scream of rage could probably have been heard on Cyx.

Lyssra faced the newcomer. It was the oversized man she had seen earlier. He was well over two meters and heavy muscled. He raised his hairless head and met her gaze. His eyes were the oddest silver gray, reptilian in their coldness. He stared at her, ignoring the woman under his boot.

"Tell her to let it go, or I will break her arm," he said. "And if that does not stop her, I will break her neck." He spoke with an oddly accented voice.

"Who are you?" Lyssra said, looking around at the throng of faces taking in the bizarre tableau. Even the children stared; one little girl around Eleda’s age had her thumb firmly parked in her mouth while she solemnly watched. "What did you think we were doing?" she whispered to him, knowing more was going on here than she understood.

"Tell her to let it go," he said.

Lyssra watched the crowd move back as though some force pushed them. She watched a troop of whip-thin armed men she recognized as the cloned type owned by wealthy royal families pour into the gap the crowd left.

"Ilesha, do as he says," Lyssra hissed, never taking her eyes off the guards.

Ilesha released a torrent of curses that curdled the air. The outline of the giant’s boot pressed into the flesh of her wrist.


"Pakal, let her up," another man spoke. "It’s pretty obvious she’s no assassin."

A man sat alone in the three-wheeled vehicle. Lyssra couldn’t help notice the raised tattoo on the side of his head that meant he was a Hegemon pilot, with the neurological implant linking him to a Jumpship’s computerized brain. The nearest guards formed a protective shield around him as he climbed slowly out of the vehicle. Even the bedraggled Cyxers were enclosed in the potentially deadly human ring. The man they guarded wore a sardonic half-smile on his dark, aristocratic face; and, with a sinking sensation, she began to realize just who he was.

"Ilesha." Lyssra watched her sister climb to her feet. She had to salvage something of this fiasco. "For God’s sake, give me that knife."

Lyssra heard a child sobbing loudly. When Ilesha hesitated and opened her mouth to protest, Lyssra wrenched the knife from her and would have jammed it into her own carryon but the big man’s fingers closed over her arm.

"I will take that."

Lyssra had no choice but to release the knife. She rubbed at the numb flesh of her arm when he released her.

The man in the three-wheeler never took his gaze off Ilesha, and Lyssra nearly groaned aloud. Ilesha looked back at him and tilted her head, as though taking his measure. Benin tried to put his arm around her, but he might as well have been hugging wood; Ilesha ignored him.

"What were you doing with that knife?" the stranger said to Ilesha. "You don’t look like a suicide case."

"We were being attacked..." Ilesha watched the creature that had triggered the whole thing flit away toward a bed of glossy white Ishtar’s blooms. The children and their caretakers, Lyssra noticed, were gone. Ilesha’s scowl deepened. "What the hell is that, anyway?"

"That was a butterfly," Selhdun said. "Very dangerous creatures, butterflies. You never know what they might do."

Ilesha frowned. "Why do you let them fly around then?"

Lyssra saw something pass over Selhdun’s face. He was struggling not to laugh. Unfortunately, Ilesha saw it, too.

"You’re making fun of me, aren’t you? Butterflies aren’t dangerous at all." Ilesha clenched her hands into fists. "Who the hell are you?"

"Prince Terik u Selhdun, Ogema of Tiamat, Lord of the Realm." Despite being seated, he gave the impression of bowing and clicking his heels. "And you are the delegation from Cyx?"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review of ALONE by Loren D. Estleman

ALONE is a Hollywood novel, but it's not a Hollywood novel at the same time. There are no actors, no movies sets or filming. Valentino is a film detective, an archivist who searches out and tries to restore old films. Attending a Hollywood costume party as Ramon Novarro to his girlfriend's Greta Garbo, Valentino is met with an offer he doesn't want to refuse. The reclusive host of the party Matthew Rankin's wife was a good friend of Garbo and he claims he has a unique film of Garbo before she became a star. He will trade it for a favor. The favor is stop Rankin's personal assistant from continuing his blackmail. Aker, the assistant, claims he has a letter from Rankin's dead wife claiming she and Garbo were lovers. Rankin will give Valentino the lost film if he will find something on Akers to stop him. But before this can happen, Akers is killed -- by Rankin, who claims self-defense.

A scruffy Beverly Hills detective, reminiscent of Columbo, investigates. He's suspicious of the so called self-defense claim and Rankin is arrested for the crime of murder. Valentino is drawn in to prove Rankin innocent.

The story isn't fast paced but it held my interest all the way through. There is a slew of interesting secondary characters, including Valentino's girlfriend, a forensic examiner for the LAPD, his on again, off again roommate and a slimy building inspector, trying to thwart Valentino's desire to rebuild the Oracle Theater to its former glory, and show the old films he's been restoring.

Review of TERMINATED, a novel by Simon Wood

TERMINATED is another brilliant Wood thriller. Who goes to work expecting to be terrorized and nearly driven mad? Work is supposed ot be mundane, even boring. Not in Simon Wood world.

In Gwen's world, a loving mother, with a wonderful husband and a 'miracle' daughter, born after they had given up hope of having children falls afoul of a sociopath. Years earlier Gwen was stabbed by a would be rapist. The rapist was jailed and Gwen believed her injuries would prevent pregnancy. It also left her with the determination never to be victimized again.

When Gwen, as newly promoted supervisor, gives a much deserved bad performance review to Stephen Tarbell, who thinks her job should have been his, Tarbell goes ballistic. After a confrontation doesn't make her change her mind, he attacks her in the parking lot after work, pulling a knife on her.

She escapes and reports the attack. Her company brings in a private security firm to investigate and convince Gwen not to go to the police, that the matter will be taken care of quickly. But Tarbell is no ordinary disappointed employee. He fumes and convinces himself Gwen not only took his job, but is out to ruin his life. He decides to teach her a lesson.

Thus begins the unraveling of Gwen's life as Tarbell's schemes grow more and more complex. Tarbell's sanity unwinds. His attacks escalate. Gwen grows desperate as Tarbell begins to threaten her family. She has to stop him. But Tarbell is wily and Gwen is desperate when Tarbell systematically destroys Gwen's life and drives away all her friends and allies.

This is nerve wracking reading. I sometimes found the tension almost unbearable. Wood is definitely a master storyteller. If you want a read that will keep you up at night then pick up a copy of TERMINATED.

Buy Link

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Metamorphosis of a Novel

At the start of 2010 I started research for a new novel. But unlike all the novels I've written before, this one was going to be a historical. After watching a History Channel show about underground speakeasies in Los Angeles during prohibition that were protected by LAPD officers at the door I just knew there was a story there.  I began to research  the period and was amazed at what I found. Prohibition, instead of what the proponents of it planned or thought would happen, created a nation of criminals. Ordinary citizens, who before the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment would never have considered breaking the law, found themselves doing so regularly and without remorse. The law quickly proved unenforceable and rather than quelling crime and violence, which was one of the goals of the naive  temperance movement that voted it in, it proved a breeding ground for the greatest growth of organized criminal activity America had ever seen.

This was a story background ripe for the telling. I knew I wanted the main character to be a cop. A crooked cop, one of the star officers of a very corrupt police force. I also had plans to mix Hollywood into the tale. After all, Hollywood came into its own during Prohibition and the power of the movie studios soon matched the power of the police force and city hall that ran the city of Angels.

But along the way there were changes. I researched numerous stars and found one who fascinated me. Ramon Novarro, a Latino actor who was groomed to replace Rudolf Valentino as the screen lover in the silent movies. Novarro was gay. It was an open secret in Hollywood and a zealously guarded one, since if word got out, his career would be ruined. But though he was never able to publicly admit his orientation, he also never succumbed to a studio arranged lavender marriage like so many other gay actors did so middle America would go on thinking they were 'real' men. 

I wanted a Novarro character in my story. Instead of making him a closeted actor, I was going to have him be one of the numerous cross-dressers that also flourish in those days. Some became quite famous. But I planned a twist. My female impersonator was going to be fooling everyone. Including the crooked LAPD officer who would fall in love with her. Originally the story was going to be a tragedy, where the cop killed the impostor when he found out, and was forced to flee the country.

But along the way my characters began to speak their minds. The LAPD officer was still going to be crooked, but the woman he was going to fall for wasn't going to be a fake. She would be a real woman, with her own set of secrets.

I could have forced the characters to fulfill the roles they were born to play in my head, but I think when characters reach a point that they become so real they tell you their story, a good writer listens. Which is what I did. And ended up with Color of Shadows and Smoke, what I think is a powerful story of a bad man struggling to leave his past behind, to change so he's worthy of a woman way out of his league and how their two tragedies intertwine and create a love story.

Right now I'm in the very early stages of a new story idea. That will be the subject of a future blog.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Blog Jog Day

Thank you for stopping by my Blog! Please explore all this Blog has to offer, then jog on over to Frankie the walk n roll dog. If you would like to visit a different Blog in the jog, go to Blog Jog Day

Rules for New Writers

New writers studiously study how-to articles online, in writer's magazines and in the hundreds of books published on how to write in the belief that there is some secret that all published writers know and if only they could find it, they'd be published too. I'm afraid it's not true. There is no magic wand that can transform you from unpublished to published. The process is the same for everybody, for some it's just longer than others. Even when the dream is realized, it's not the end. You publish one book, one short story or perhaps an article. The next one is not a shoe-in. You might get more consideration for having been published, but you can just as easily be rejected again for you latest work.

It took me 33 years between the first book I wrote at 17 to having my first book published when I was 50. In that time I wrote at least 8 novels that were not published, in some cases probably weren't publishable. But each one was a learning experience I built on until I produced a book that someone wanted. But after that there was more rejection. The second book in the series was rejected and I ended up taking it elsewhere, to a small, independent publisher, which was a step down from the New York publisher I had started with. I'm still glad to be published by them and have continued with them since then. But I still want to break back into the New York publishing world and I've been pursuing an agent for the last 6 months. So far I have 95 rejections on one book I'm querying. That's 95 times I've had to read 'Sorry, not for us' since most of the rejections have been form letters. But I haven't stopped querying and I haven't stopped writing. I still send out queries on that book, and wait for a response. I have also started an even larger, more ambitious project, a noir historical which I will also be querying on when it's finished.

My point to all this is, though I have 8 fiction novels published and several short stories, I am no more guaranteed the next book I write will be published by anyone. Publishing is a business going through a lot of changes right now, and no one knows where it will be in 5 years, let alone 20. Publishers want sure things, and since there is no such thing, they compensate by being cautious. Which means more rejections to all but the upper tier of proven best sellers.

So why do it? I do it because I can't NOT write. Whether or not I get published I will always write because the stories are in me and have to be told. With that compulsion I will keep writing no matter if the next book or the one after that is never published or I decide to self publish an ebook, I will write.

As a new writer, only you can decide if this path is for you. No one else can make that decision or stop you from trying. If you want to write, despite the odds, then I say go, write.

My motto is taken right out of Galaxy Quest -- 'Never give up, never surrender'

Write what you know or write what you want?

Writing outside of your own experiences   

What do Annie Proulx, Neil Plakcy, John Varley and Arthur Golden have in common?

They all write about places and people diametrically opposed to what they are.

Annie Proulx, a thrice divorced woman with three sons and a daughter, wrote the multi award winning short story Brokeback Mountain, a story about two Wyoming ranch hands who work together one summer and become reluctant lovers, a love affair that goes on in secret for years, neither man able to speak of the love they have. Annie Proulx is a) not a man b) not gay c) not a ranch hand. Yet her writing won awards and went on to become an iconic film that won awards all over the world, including Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and Director's Guild awards.

Neil Plakcy is another award winning author who has written a series of books about Kimo Kanapa'aka, a mixed Hawaiian-Japanese-Chinese-Haole homicide detective in the Honolulu Police Department. Now I've met Neil, he's a wonderful, talented man, but he's not a) a cop b) Hawaiian, Japanese or Chinese c) does nor nor has he ever lived in Hawaii. But his books are wonderful and I've never heard of anyone taking exception to his skill in writing about the place or the man.

John Varley is a Hugo Award winning white Texan who wrote some remarkable books set on a goddess made world called Gaea. His characters in that series ranged from a bi-sexual female ship's captain turned wizard called Cirocco Jones, and impossibly, bizarre creatures out of legend like centaurs and flying angels.

Arthur Golden is a middle-aged, Jewish American man who authored the critically acclaimed Memoirs of a Geisha, a story about a young, Japanese girl who was raised/trained to be a geisha girl.

How can these people, so different from the characters they portray do it? Is it wrong for them to try? Is it wrong for a white person to write about a black, a male to write from a woman's POV? Someone who lives on the east coast to write about the west coast, or an American to write about a Chinese character living in 4th Century China? Are there lines that writers shouldn't cross in their stories? And if there are, who draws those lines?

My books all deal with gay men living in modern America, in most cases in Los Angeles, a city I did live in once, but hadn't visited until this year. One of my recent books, not yet published is about a young Latino man from a gang ridden barrio in South Central Los Angeles. As I wrote it, I wondered if I was going to get flack for writing about a world I have never lived in, so in the last while I've been thinking about this a lot, and I've come to some conclusions. I know I've been criticised for writing about L.A. since I don't live there now. And all of us who are female and write gay male fiction face the criticism that we have no business doing so. Is there any merit to what those critics say?

My newest book is a noir historical set in 1929 Los Angeles. I did a great deal of research into that period, including a trip to Los Angeles where I spent some time in their historical archives looking up L.A.'s past.

Personally I'm of the mind that as writers we are supposed to delve into worlds and people we don't know, in some cases can never know. This is the nature of good fiction. Tame books, told about everyday lives, can be good literature, but for me that's not what I want in my books. I want to explore new places, from new POVs in a way that allows me to live them vicariously. My final argument about this way of thinking is that there would be no science fiction, no fantasy and no historical books, since all those require the writer to step outside of their comfort zone and put themselves in another's shoes.

I also think, that as long as we invest in the research and don't succumb to stereotypes, that we should have the freedom to write the stories that come to us.

What do you think? Do you write about places or people unlike your own? Do you think there are things we shouldn't write about?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Truth in writing historical novels

Writing of any kind takes effort. Police procedurals require research into how the police function in the real world. Legal thrillers need a firm understanding of law and courtrooms and what takes place in them. Same with medical thrillers. Writing an historical crime novel takes another level of research and decisions, above and beyond knowing how the police operate at the time.

One question that has to be faced and answered before any words are put to paper is how real are you going to make your novel? Will you try to be true to the day's mores or will you be more politically correct and give your characters some of our modern day beliefs? What about language? Language is powerful. Using strong racial words can be both jarring and hurtful, but if you want to write a story true to its time, do you avoid those words? Or play it safe and avoid the whole mess?

In my newest novel, Color of Shadows and Smoke, the main protagonist, Billy Brewster is an LAPD sergeant in a time when the only difference between the cops and the gangsters in town were the badges. Billy and his fellow cops and just about everyone else in the city of Angels were racists and wanted Los Angeles to be the 'best last white spot in the west'. They did this through overt racism and more subtle methods like housing covenants that didn't allow undesirables to move into white only areas. The LAPD's Chief of Police had gun squads and 'Red' squads set up to rid the city of gangsters and communists. But not to protect the citizens, no, these efforts were to get rid of the competition.

But in writing Color of Shadows and Smoke I had to decide whether to let Billy speak in his own language or clean him up and make him more palatable to modern readers. Would that be honest? Billy's not a nice person. He's not well educated, he's a bigot, a grifter, a misogynist and a killer. But not totally irredeemable. I want to be true to that. So I decided to put it all out there. Show Billy and all his myriad warts. Does it work? Yes, I believe it does. Of all the books I've written over the years, I think Color of Shadows and Smoke is my best one yet. To read a sample, go here, but be warned, it does contain all that language I talked about.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing the Historical novel

I have always written, and for the most part, read, contemporary crime fiction books. But following a documentary on the History Channel, I got it in my head to try my hand at an historical novel set in my favorite city: Los Angeles. What triggered it was the intriguing idea of the speakeasies in L.A. during Prohibition being run by the LAPD. How the LAPD didn't keep the city free of organized crime to safeguard the citizens of L.A. but to protect their own position as the overlords of their city. Los Angeles didn't have the kind of organized gangsters cities like Chicago were plagued with, instead the LAPD colluded with City Hall and local businessmen to run the cities gambling joints, whore houses and speakeasies.

The corruption went all the way to the top. Both the Chief of Police and the Mayor were part of the syndicate that ran the city. Such a colorful history just itched to be written about. I had always wanted to write a true noir story, about seemingly irredeemable characters and a corrupt cop seemed perfect. So Billy Brewster was born. A Southern cracker who came to L.A. a very young man, joined the LAPD and rose in the rank as a bagman, enforcer and hit man for his boss, the Chief of Police. We meet him in the very first pages taking care of business in the form of stopping an east coast mob man from bringing his Chicago crime syndicate to town. Billy's idea of justice comes at the end of his sap and his .38.

But Billy meets a society lady, Madeleine La Rue who has some secrets of her own and the two are drawn into an unexpected relationship that takes Billy to places he's never been before.

Once Billy and Maddy were in place, the story took off. I spent month digging up facts about Prohibition, flappers, speakeasies and rum runners. The more I dug, the more fascinated I became. I immersed myself in the 1920s. Watched old silent movies or more modern movies about that time period like The Changeling, which deals with exactly the kind of corruption in the LAPD I was writing about. I found a radio station I could listen to online that played the music of the 20s so I could immerse myself in the kind of music my characters would listen to. I researched the movie stars of the day, and the way their scandals were kept covered up by collusion between the very powerful studios and the LAPD, how the blatant publish hypocrisy of the day fueled a nation that preached Godliness and purity but drank bathtub gin and went to speakeasies to Charleston to the sounds of black musicians who weren't allowed to go to the clubs they played at.

Los Angeles in the 20s and 30s was a virulently bigoted city. It sold itself as 'the last best white spot' in America and prided itself on keeping out undesirables, which included just about everyone who wasn't WASP. This included being extremely antithetical to organized labor, a measure that was fully supported by the L.A. Times a very anti-union paper who supported union busting and open shops throughout Southern California, in stark contrast to Northern California where labor was strong.

All in all, I found the time too fascinating not to write about and from that came Color of Shadows and Smoke, a 97.600 word noir historical that I am in the process of revising and will soon be shopping around to agents.

To read an Excerpt