Sunday, January 31, 2016

Feel the Beat: How to Propel Plot

I did a reading in New York this past week as a part of the Mysterious Bookstore launch for Orchard Grove, my new standalone noir novel from Polis Books. After the reading, a fan asked me how I'm able to balance my dialogue with the prose while pushing along the plot so swiftly. It wasn't an easy question to answer. In many ways, it was like trying to find an answers for why do our hearts beat? Or why life?

Ask one hundred authors how they go about writing something and you'll get one hundred different answers. But for me, it's a matter of rhythm. Of creating a specific beat to the writing, much like a drummer laying down the back beat behind a particular piece of music. I'm able to make this analogy because I'm a drummer. And when I'm drumming, I feel the beat more than I hear it.

It's the same with writing.

I'm able to create 3,000 new words a day, not because I grind through it, but instead because of an ability to create a specific rhythm or beat that I feel inside my body and that is made manifest on the paper (or digital screen of my laptop). The steady beat comes about by a balancing act of description and dialogue. Never should one overtake the other or the entire piece of music will crash and burn. The reader senses the rhythm, and whether they end up liking the story or not, they will almost always point out, "Holy crap, I just could not put the book down."

Sometimes I'm writing to a frantic punk rock beat and other times, I'm writing to a more creative, improvised jazz rhythm. Sometimes it's funk, and other times, I'm writing to a slow, lovely but sad ballad like The Long and Winding Road, strings and choral voices bringing tears to my eyes.  

Looking for a way not only to write more words per day, but to create novels and stories that are unputdownable? Think in terms of rhythm. Feel the beat, man...Feel the beat. 



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Obama Cries, But We All Feel the Pain

Appeasement in Syria, failing to act on a line drawn in the blood-soaked sand. Russian military taking action in defense of the brutal Assad regime. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and other allies abandoned, left to go it alone. A devastating treaty with our enemy Iran which guarantees their acquiring a nuclear device sooner than later. Isis killing Christians, children, the handicapped, with all the efficiency and inspired hatred of the Nazis. Al Qaeda on the rise once more in Afghanistan. Europe strangled by Syrian refugees some of whom have already been arrested for raping several German women on New Years Eve. France reeling from two ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks. An ISIS attack in San Bernadino California. And now, North Korea tests a small H-Bomb...

And yet our pillar of strength...our crying.
He's crying over gun control in the wake of a world on the verge of total calamity, and the outbreak of World War III.

Where were your tears, Mr. President, when 32 years old Kate Steinle was murdered by the bullet of an illegal immigrant in San Fransisco a year ago? Where were your tears for James Foley when ISIS beheaded him on You Tube (you went golfing). Where were your tears when so many were slaughtered by ISIS at the Paris Charlie Hebdo headquarters (you sent James Taylor in your stead). Where were you these past eight years when black youths are dying by the dozens sometimes on a weekly basis in your home state of Illinois from guns purchased on the black market (no amount of background checks will ever stop that violence...the background checks will only make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families against criminals, terrorists, and tyranny)?

But yesterday, instead of tending to the grave issues that threaten the very security not only of the US but the globe, you enact feeble gun control measures during a theatrical political performance in the in White House East Room in which you cried real tears. Perhaps the tears are truly heartfelt, and the response of a man who hates to see innocent life so senselessly snuffed out. We all cry for those dead children in Sandy Hook and their parents. Your tears are not unique.

But perhaps you're crying for different reasons. Perhaps you're crying over the dismal failure of your policies both foreign and domestic, over your failure to recognize the enemy for what it is...radical Islam. Perhaps you're crying because you have no choice but to take the weak route of executive action, because the American people do not like your policies as evidenced by the Republican take-over of congress. Perhaps you're crying, because during your tenure as Commander in Chief, Smith & Wesson stock has risen more than 900%. Maybe you're crying because you feel so utterly alone in your mission to transform America into something none of us recognize.

I wonder how many tears you would be crying if you could bypass the constitution entirely by
--Revoking free speech (Political Correctness)
--Taking away our guns and abolishing the 2nd Amendment (a tactic utilized by dictators ranging from Stalin to Hitler)
--Relying on a propaganda driven left wing media (The New York Times, MSNBC, etc.)
--The undermining of our police force (New York City, Ferguson, etc).
--Pitting black against white (Black Lives Matter)
--Gross expansion of the Democratic power base (amnesty for illegals, open borders, the taking in of unvetted refugees, the welfare state, Obamacare, etc.)
--Undermining the safety of the United States by empowering our enemies (release of Gitmo detainees, the swap of deserter Bowe Bergdhal for the Taliban 5, the Iran Nuclear Deal, etc.) 

But then, these things are already happening.
So I don't see why you're crying.

Perhaps you're crying because while your Gun Control press conference was taking place, the locks on the cells of 17 Gitmo detainees who are said to be so dangerous, you will not release their names until they have reached their new destinations for fear that the American people will rise up against the measure, was also occurring.

Maybe the stress and strain of it all is just too much. Maybe you just can't take it anymore. Perhaps when the tears start to flow so freely from the one person we all depend upon for strength and resolve in leading the free world against so many dangers, we are all in big trouble. Maybe we should all be shedding tears right about now.



Friday, December 25, 2015

A Very Zandri Christmas 2015

A very Hemingway Christmas...

I don't want to fall into that, "It's Christmas and time for reflection thing," because it seems that's the general article every writer no matter his or her politics, religion, and or sexual preference writes on a nice day like today. But having spent the past two months in Italy touring a new Italian edition of MOONLIGHT SONATA and rewriting my newest stand-alone, THE DETONATOR, along with a full first draft of the newest in the Chase Baker action/adventure pulp series, CHASE BAKER AND THE DA VINCI DIVINITY, I have come to just a few conclusions that will propel me into the new year, not necessarily as a hard working writer (I always work hard), but a writer who will work smarter.

Some adjustments I'll be making for 2016:

--As a hybrid author, I enjoy contracts with several publishers, big and small. But this year, I'm going to pay special attention to growing my own, Bear Media, list of books. This was the first year where I saw significant sales in my indie novels. Namely, the Chase Baker books of which the first in the series, THE SHROUD KEY, was named One of the Best of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. Now that writer/journalist Ben Sobieck is also penning original episodes of the series, I expect to see significant growth in Chase Baker world.

--Less journalism, more fiction. Back in 1999 when I signed my first big contract for my first big novel, As Catch Can (now THE INNOCENT), I chucked journalism altogether, thinking I would nail a 250K contract once per year. What a dope I was. That said, I've always believed a writer needs many outlets for his work in order to make a nice living. That includes journalism outlets. I still write some journalism and maintain my membership with SPJ, but while I'm paid for my time as a journalist, the work isn't the gift that keeps on giving. That means, more fiction. Think the 80/20 principle here. 80% more time spent on scalable fiction projects, and 20% on the journalism.

--Blogging. Was a time when writers were encouraged to blog constantly, since the posts would inevitably lead readers to your books. That basic premise still holds true but blogging doesn't quite have the "Buy Me" power it once did. Let's face it, there's so much noise out there in the blogosphere already that chances are, your words are only making things worse. Again, write more fiction, less noise.

--Word Count. I'm not one of those Bananaramo writers, nor do I feel the need to state a specific word count for any given work day. But I do feel I the need increase my word count this year. I generally write between five to seven pages per day when writing a new book. But this year, I'll try increasing that to ten pages.

--Readings. I dreamt last night that I was giving a reading to a student body. I take that as a sign that I should be out there doing more readings and speaking engagements. Therefore, if you're reading this, and you want me to read and/or speak at your school or function, just email me at and we'll set a date.

There's probably more things I'm going to try and improve upon this year, but I drank way too much wine last night in beautiful Florence, where the smells of roasting garlic pervades the air and the Christmas bells are ringing in the cathedral towers. I think I need to head out for a run and then open up some gifts with my family who have flown over the Atlantic to enjoy the holidays with me. I might be an ocean away from my American friends and fans but that doesn't mean you're not always in my thoughts. Thanks for making it a spectacular 2015!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

World Wars a Sad Democratic Legacy

Say what you want about conservatives, but up to and including now, it has traditionally been a liberal Democratic President who's presided over the United States while the planet became engulfed in a World War.

Woodrow Wilson, a far left Democrat, refused to get involved in the First World War until it was obvious that Germany's unrestricted use of submarine warfare would starve Western Europe.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, also a Socialist Democrat, stood by idly during the Spanish Civil War while Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy murdered thousands of Spanish innocents. He still refused to fight Fascism when the Second World War broke out, and he knew full well that Jews were being relocated to concentration "death" camps. Only when America's mainland was struck in 1941 did he have no choice but to declare war on the Axis powers.

Now we have Barack Obama, a leftist Democrat, who has forcibly made the US withdraw from its responsibilities on the world stage over his own political agenda--a dangerous policy that has directly resulted in thousands of Christians being slaughtered overseas.

Unlike the previous two aforementioned Presidents, he's gone a step farther than merely avoiding war with an obvious enemy like Radical Islam. He has signed treaty-like agreements with our enemy, Iran and taken great pains to empty out the GITMO detention center in Cuba. He's also made decisions of staggering ineptitude, like trading several major Al Qaeda players for a treasonous Bowe Bergdhal.

A Russian jet fighter was shot down over Turkey earlier today. Some are already saying that the incident is a part of Putin's overall strategy to see the world engulfed in a World War in which the Russian leader feels confident he can crush an ineffectual NATO and at the same time, rebuild the Soviet empire.

Why does NATO stand the chance of being ineffectual?

Because Barack Obama is ineffectual and the USA needs to lead NATO. 

The world security slope is indeed slippery. And the world is currently sliding rapidly down into a Third World War which presents the very real possibility of being fought with nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, wake up and be a leader before it's way too late. 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

On the Ground Observations from Terrorist Rattled Europe

Papa defends freedom with a pen and gin in his canteen.
Couple observations.

First, Bloobmberg reports today that Hemingway's 1964 posthumously published memoir about Paris is flying off both the digital and paper shelves in France, particularly Paris. Amazing the support for Papa's romantic vision of the City of Lights as A Movable Feast all these years later during such complicated and dangerous times. A time in which, like during WWII, the Russians are allying with France to eradicate a common enemy as murderous if not worse than Hitler's Nazis.

According to Bloomberg, the renewed interest in the great work is a "show of defiance" against the recent Radical Islamist terror attacks and Radical Islam in general which would do anything possible to eliminate a way of life for drinkers, writers, poets, artists and more. Let's face it, the bastards would make a mosque out of the Deux Magot.

Papa would love the renewed interest in the wake of this new war of freedom vs. terror. Speaking of another time in history he famously stated, "Fascism is a lie told by bullies." No writer can truly write under Fascist law. Same goes for Sharia Law, as well as the Political Correctness which has afflicted the USA and been perpetuated so dangerously by Barack Obama and his mainstream media minions.

So Papa would be proud.

One wonders however, what he might have thought (off the record, of course) of the present POTUS. My guess is he would have smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "You get what you goddamned pay for, pal." He then would have belly laughed and poured another glass of vino rosso (or rouge). "Don't take life so seriously," he would have said, slapping me on the back. "You never know when that old whore death is gonna come knocking at your door."

In other matters, today, I came face to face with a group of Muslim young men freshly transplanted from their home territory. I stood in line at the grocery store with them. They seemed giddy and relieved to have made it this far. They had a leader with them. A fixer. A man who was about my age, and who was coaching them on what to buy and how to buy it (no pork products). They spoke in their native tongue, and looked healthy and fit and not to badly attired with nice watches and jeans. The leader, who spoke very little English and zero Italian, was confused when the cashier wanted to know if he wanted a plastic bag with which to carry his purchases. He just looked at her like she had two heads. I reached out, grabbed the plastic bag, and gave it to him. He smiled. I wondered if these transplants had wives and children waiting for them somewhere. But there was nothing in their food and supply purchases that would have indicated as such. No baby cereal or diapers. Just stuff a grown young man might want to eat and utilize. And certainly no booze.

Syrian refugees come up from the south?

Almost certainly.

But the refugee part might be misleading. More like young men fleeing a civil war in which they would have to choose between one of two evil sides. I could only hope their intentions were benign. But I can only wonder considering the recent events in Paris. Vigilance is key here. This world war is only just getting started. 

Oh, and by the way, the fixer attached to the young transplants paid with a Mastercard.

Go figure...

UPDATE 11/20:
 As of this morning, the US State Department warns American travelers that Florence's "Duomo Cathedral" and Rome's Vatican are now listed as viable ISIS targets based on recent intelligence reports. Italian military and police have now ramped up security accordingly.



Monday, November 16, 2015

Is President Obama in Control?

I (try to) approach my politics as an indie. Despite what writer/journalist and Ernest Hemingway's 3rd wife, Martha Gellhorn, opined a long time ago about "Fuck all that objectivity shit," I need to keep an open mind to both sides, resist the Fascism of political correctness, and go with my writing gut.

But watching today's Barack Obama press conference--subject ISIS and the Paris attack--broadcast from the G20 Summit in Turkey (and doing so from Europe) was a very painful experience (one journalist cavalierly queried, "Why can't we take out these bastards?"). The leader of the free world not only seemed out of touch with reality, his answers were filibuster-long, disjointed, devoid of hard facts, defensive and, in a word, rambling.

In my opinion, we see a foreign policy failure unmatched since Chamberlain in the months leading up to WWII.
But don't take my word for it. Catch the full press conference here.

Critical questions loom:

--Is the US prepared to handle an attack like that which has consumed France?
--Is taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees, 90% of whom are fighting age young men, really a good idea at this time?
--Since we know precisely where the majority of ISIS members live and thrive, shouldn't we enter into a series of decisive blows that obliterates them, and neutralizes their capabilities overnight, despite the President's sentiment of not wanting to engage in an "immediate solution"  (Huh?)?
--Is the President, not pushing moderate Muslim nations in the Middle East to both fight Radical Islam and take in Muslim refugees because of his new alliance with Iran?
--Was it wise of him to release more Gitmo detainees only a couple of days after the Paris strike (Is this the result of his new alliance with Cuba?)
--Is the President truly concerned with the safety of America, or with his own political (philosophical) agenda?
--Is Barack Obama in control?


Saturday, November 14, 2015

France's Hollande Says Attack an 'Act of War'

Despite a US State Department claim yesterday that ISIS is being "contained," a massive terrorist attack was carried out in Paris last evening killing upwards of 158 and wounding scores more.

Get the full story here from the Reuters.

In a statement just moments ago, French President Hollande  stated that the attack was an "act of war" and that France would show no pity for those responsible. While an ISIS cell has been identified as that responsible party behind the attack, the President has declared a state of emergency, closed all borders, and initiated the first curfew in the country since WWII.

This is a developing story...