Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Narcissist

Norman Mailer, a self proclaimed novelist/narcissist.

We create and carry on conversations with ourselves. We live as much on the interior as we do the exterior. Perhaps more so. We make sure to catch passing glances at ourselves every time we walk by mirrors not because we think our hair might be out of place, or something might be smeared on our lips, but because we are the most important person in the room. 

We wake up and we prop ourselves up for the day's work head, convincing ourselves that we are the best at what we do. No one can beat us. We are brilliant and the world is ours for the conquering. We might have spent the night besides someone else. A precious loved one perhaps. But we have most definitely slept with ourselves and we will face the day with ourselves.

We Google ourselves.
We check our Amazon rankings obsessively.
We check to see if our name pops up in the news.
We imagine that our marketing peeps think only of us.
We send proposals and stories to editors and agents, and wonder why they don't get back to us 
     within the hour.
We cheer ourselves when the work is going well and beat the shit out of ourselves when it is going
We measure our life, deadline to deadline.
We break hearts because it's the romantic thing to do.
We drive by a car wreck and see a story in it.
We drink too much, eat too much, exercise too much, nap too much, sleep too little, worry a lot,
     ignore problems, and put off the bills.
We dream of escape while escaping, envision dirty sex while making love, feel pain when
     laughing, keep to ourselves when socializing in our favorite bar, make ourselves the center of
     attention at a dinner party thrown in someone else's honor....

We are narcissists and novelists and our world revolves around us. Notice I'm writing from the "We" POV. Whoever said there is no "I" in "We" ain't never been to a writer's conference. There is no bigger collection of "I's" in the world than a writer's conference. Still we feel compelled to attend. After all it will help propel the career forward...My career.

So, novelist, what will you do with yourself today?



Friday, March 22, 2013

The "Romeo Killer" Murder(s) by Moonlight...

I don't always make stuff up.
Sometimes, I borrow from what's happened, or happening all around me. When I sat down to write Murder by Moonlight a year and a half ago, I already knew that I wanted to base the newest in the Dick Moonlight detective series on a tragic axe murder, and attempted murder, that had occurred fairly recently in a sleepy little white-bread suburb outside of Albany, New York called...get this...Bethlehem.

The axe murderer in question, an attractive, well educated young man by the name of Chris Porco, had already been tried and imprisoned. Despite repeated appeals he remains incarcerated, and it's more than likely that a max security prison will be his home long after his good looks abandon him and his prison Bic pen tattoos have faded to faint blue.

Basing a fictional story on a real event is just that. You borrow from what's already been reported (in this case, some great work  by local Albany journalists Steve Ferrance of YNN News Network and Brendon Lyons of The Times Union), and then you add your imagination to it. The real stuff...the stuff that is already out there readily available in the public domain...provides the base or seed of the story. You, as a novelist, provide the soil, the sun, and the water. You grow it into something that it already is, but also into something much more than it is--a fictional work that is greater than the sum of its true parts.

You following me here?

This weekend the Lifetime Channel (I know, gag!) will present a Docu-Drama (I use capital letters because the word looks so much more...well...dramatic), called, "Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story." Like I did with Murder by Moonlight, the writers of this television motion picture borrowed from documented reportage and then added a little artistic license to the equation. A lot of artistic license from what I'm told.

But the problem now is that Mr. Porco has gotten wind of the film and is trying to have it canned, claiming it "is an unlawful use of his name for trade purposes because he said it's a largely fictional and unauthorized account of his story. (You can read the whole Times Union story here)."

Hey Chris, aren't you like, an axe murderer? Aren't your God given rights not exactly what they used to be?

This isn't the first time I've been made aware of the convicted killer's, let's call them, media complaints.  Just yesterday, Murder by Moonlight, came up in an NPR roundtable program in which the topic of discussion went something like this: Does a convicted murderer and all around psychopath like Porco bear the constitutional right to stop a movie or book based upon his crimes in a court of law?

Well, that court has spoken and so far its Porco 0 - Writers/Media 1.
 And that's a good thing.

I can't think of many fiction writers who don't borrow from reality one way or another, My novels The Innocent (As Catch Can), The Concrete Pearl, and even The Remains all borrow from some actual events that have occurred at one time or another. Michael Connelly (a former newspaper reporter), often hangs out with the cops in order to steal a story or two from the real world. Hemingway used to risk his life in battle in order to harpoon a good and clean and true story. Dan Brown messed with Jesus for God's sakes. Martha Gellhorn reported and, on occasion, turned the reportage into short stories and novels that would never sell. Even Albany's William Kennedy has derived a nice livelihood and achieved the pinnacle of literary greatness writing about scumbags like Legs Diamond. Somehow, I doubt that old Legs' extended family has, ummmm, a leg to stand on should they consider suing Mr. Kennedy. 
I think I'll watch "Romeo Killer" this weekend. It looks like a sappy adaptation of a true life event, and no doubt the writers will tug at the heartstrings of its predominately female audience while scaring their panties off (imagine being attacked with an axe while sleeping in your bed at night?). If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what it is real and what is fabricated. 

Tugging at viewers heartstrings while scaring their panties off...Come to think of it, that's precisely what I've tried to do in Murder by Moonlight.
 _ _ _

To grab a copy of the Amazon No. 1 Bestselling Hard-Boiled Crime novel, MURDER BY MOONLIGHT, go to... 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Should You Go to Writing School?

I get asked this question a lot for obvious reasons. I went to writing school and I’m not afraid to advertise that fact. I’m proud of what I accomplished there back in the mid to late 1990s. The work was hard, but enjoyable since writing and reading were also a hobby at the time, and the students, for the most part, were good, decent people.

Of course, there were some assholes who couldn’t wait to shit on your work as soon as you walked through the workshop door. But many of these same people are history now, not having published a word once they were given their diplomas. Most likely they now sell insurance or have drunk themselves to death. One can only hope.

But at the time, writing school was a necessary evil for me. I had no idea I would actually write for a living. I thought I would live the cush life of the writing professor. You know, write a novel every five years or so, publish it with a small publisher, bang the crap out of my pretty young adoring female students. Seemed like a nice life to me. But in order to live that life, I first needed my MFA.
These days, for the most part, MFA programs are a scam and a sham. They have sprung up all over the place simply because of the demand. People feel like writers when they are enrolled in a writing program. Problem is, after dropping 30 or 40K it’s more than likely they will never see their work published commercially. They might venture to self-publish, now that DIYing it is hot shit. But the work will probably be mediocre and not attract an audience the way a work published by a major publisher could (or a hotshot indie publisher/small press).

But writing school was a good time. I drank like crazy, spent days and nights on speed, fucked like a rabbit, and yeah, got some writing done too. It was an escape, but not entirely. I was there to work hard and work hard I did. I was determined to be a success one day. Image
Was the experience worth the cost in the end? For me it was. My creative thesis turned into my first full-length power novel: The Innocent (or, As Catch Can). Mind you, the version I worked on at school was very different. The writing teacher who advised me during my last semester suggested all sorts of cuts and revisions, which I did to please him. But as soon as I got back to New York, I put the cuts back in and reversed the revisions. The book was originally bought by Delacorte Press only a year after graduation in a mid-six figure deal, and went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. It still sells at bestseller levels today now that it’s on its third publisher in 13 years. So much for writing school advice.

So, do you need to go to writing school?

The choice is entirely yours. You will meet some like-minded people who will be your friends for life, and you will meet some of the most crappy souled assholes in the world who want nothing more than to crush you and your talent. They are the jealous type. You will meet professors who are old and washed up and who will hit on you. But you will also meet some genuinely great teachers who embrace the fact that teaching writing is as much a spiritual calling as the writing itself.
I’ll say it again. The choice is yours. Do you want to be a serious writer who makes his or her living from words? If that’s the case, writing school can teach you a lot. It’s what you make of it. But if you just want a place to escape to in which you can play pretend writer, save your money and sell insurance.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Suddenly, The "Vox" Is Back in Action!!!

"The novel loosely based on the Chris Porco axe murder in Bethlehem, NY"

Most of you know that the "Blogger" version of the wildly popular The Vincent Zandri Vox, has been out of commission for some time. It just disappeared one day, like some of my wives. But now, again, like some of my wives, it has now miraculously, re-appeared.

Like they say, God and Google, work in mysterious ways.

Just a quick update, MURDER BY MOONLIGHT, my newest Moonlight to date is out and about and scoring big in Europe. I'd like to see it score here in the US as well, so please buy a copy for your Kindle or E-Pad or whatever...Or grab a paper copy. Thomas & Mercer has put together a beautiful book. Now this novel is a bit more graphic and scary than some of my others, so be prepared. But it has huge twist at the end that will leave your pits a-sweating...

Cheers and happy reading!!!