When Retreat Means Forward

The BoxUnlike Brad Pitt in Se7en, I was expecting the box. (Same size, a bit heavier.) Because it arrived earlier than anticipated, it still took me by surprise. Unlike Morgan Freeman, I didn’t slice it open with a switchblade. I used hedge shears. (Because I knew where they were and was too impatient to search for scissors. Or perhaps I wanted to outdo David Fincher in creepiness.) And inside the box? (Spoiler Alert!) Not pretty Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, but beautiful copies of Calvin’s Head. I didn’t cry like Brad Pitt, but my allergies did act up a little.

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Killers, Kids, and Human Heads

Serial Killers“A human head weighs about the same as a large oven-ready chicken,” crime fiction author Peter James told a roomful of rapt listeners at ThrillerFest 2014 in New York City. If anyone felt queasy, they didn’t show it. After all, the panel was called Sick, Sick, Sick: Is it Possible to Write Great Thrillers and Not Be a Secret Sadist? It’s always fascinating to spend a weekend with writers who think a great deal about new and grisly methods to murder someone or how to commit the perfect crime. With my debut suspense novel coming out in two months, and having started a second one, I couldn’t think of a better place to be than this yearly International Thriller Writers event.

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Gay and Homeless in Amsterdam

My first Guest Blog went live on the website of author Brandon Shire yesterday, perfectly timed as I attended ThrillerFest 2014. Brandon has a special interest in the issue of LGBT youth homelessness. So I wrote about how that subject connects to my novel. (Special Thanks to Brandon for the opportunity!)

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In July 2012, with an early draft of my debut novel tucked under my arm, I pitched the story to agents interested in crime fiction at ThrillerFest in New York City. I always began the same way: “Amsterdam. Summer of 1995. I’m homeless, living in my jeep with my dog, Calvin. True story.” The rest didn’t seem to matter so much. “You were actually homeless?” they interrupted. A flicker of excitement appeared in their eyes. Could be a strong marketing tactic. Homeless author pulls himself from the gutter… But when I told them the homeless protagonist in the book was a young gay man, interest appeared to diminish. The agents politely asked me to send a submission, and several weeks later I received a series of encouraging rejections.

In retrospect, I wonder if the gay element was an issue at all. I’d like to believe it wasn’t – give the agents the benefit of the doubt. These were intelligent literary enthusiasts. It was entirely possible the manuscript just wasn’t polished enough, that I hadn’t finished the work needed to sell the book. I’ve learned a lot about the whole process of crafting a novel in the last two years. And four rewrites later, Calvin’s Head is set to be released by LGBTQ publisher Bold Strokes Books in September.

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Lights. Camera. Book Trailer.

Early Morning Rain

Early Morning Rain

Awake early, like a child on Christmas morning. Rain patters on trees outside the open screened window. Twelve hours ago I put finishing touches on my first guest blog post, almost ready to send. Somewhat distracted by the overwhelmingly positive response all day to the first book trailer, which had gone live that morning. Phone vibrated on the desk, noting arrival of email. Copy edits of first novel Calvin’s Head. I wanted to tear into the task of perusal immediately. But the day had been long, busy, dinner with friends already planned. I was tired, screen weary, brain dead. Best to wait until tomorrow.

New day, fresh start. I am here, ready, manuscript beside me, Word document beneath this one, waiting for the starter pistol to fire.

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