Posts Tagged ‘writing’

It’s been a busy start to February for me. Outside the Law is finally a reality and doing really well so far. And though I’ve tried to keep up with all the goings on, for a variety of reasons I haven’t really had time to digest the reaction to the book and post daily here, or any social media for that matter.

cropped-cropped-deadmulelogo-1But two items of note today. The first is the very generous review by the irrepressible Val MacEwan at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, as good a journal of authentic Southern fiction as you’re going to find (if I do say so myself). I was fortunate enough to have a story published at the Mule  a few years ago, and it’s really a cool thing to be reviewed there. If you like your Southern fiction real, get over there and check it out. To read the review, click here.

Here’s an excerpt: “Outside the Law needs to be savored and enjoyed. Read it for the action but also read it for the sense of place. Thompson’s writing is sparse and brilliant, no flowery speeches, no unnecessary actions.”

Next, another great review from crime fiction reviewer David Nemeth. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s a preview: “If you like your Southern justice with a side of revenge and lots of good writing, then Outside the Law is just the book for you.”

Next up: the Los Angeles Times Festival of the Book, April 22-23. I’ll be heading to the West Coast to attend this event as one of Brash Books’ authors, and I’m really looking forward to my first trip to L.A. in about 10 years.

Today’s links

Boyce’s new book, ‘Old Bones’ crime fiction at its best“Old Bones” by highly acclaimed author Trudy Nan Boyce (Putnam, $27) is a superior crime novel scheduled for release on Tuesday.

The Dry by Jane Harper: The surprising roots of hot new crime thrillerWhat has Hull got to do with a critically acclaimed new crime thriller novel set in Australia? It is set in hot, dusty and arid rural Australia, so you might well be forgiven for wondering what East Yorkshire has to do with one of the hottest new crime thrillers.The Dry by Jane Harper has received rave reviews since it was published in the UK last week, mirroring similar critical acclaim back in Australia and in the US.


Outside-02-215x330Today is pub day for Outside the Law, and, as I did yesterday, I have to again say thanks to the crew at Brash Books (Lee Goldberg & Joel Goldman) for taking the time to read the manuscript, see something in it, and then have the patience and insight to help shape it into what I think is a damn good Southern crime story. Go ahead, buy a copy, read it and agree with me. You know you want to.

Also, please take the time to leave a review on Amazon. Believe it or not, every little bit helps. Then tell all your friends.

And just to whet your appetite (if it isn’t already), check out the first of three trailers for the book here. And read reviews on the “Books” link at the top of the page. Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly review to get you started:

“Sheriff Colt Harper, as the title of Thompson’s tough, fast-paced sequel to 2013’s Deep Blood suggests, takes a Dirty Harry approach to law enforcement. In his first term as sheriff of Mississippi’s rural Lowndes County, Colt has shot several people, and his office stands accused of using excessive violence. He’s unsure whether he should run for reelection. At the scene of a convenience store robbery, a teenage boy, whom Colt places under arrest, tells him that somebody has been taking down drug dealers. When drug dealers start turning up dead, Colt suspects that a serial killer is at work. Molly McDonough, an ATF special agent, helps him investigate. Colt and Molly, who have each become disillusioned with their jobs, are seeking redemption for past mistakes. Meanwhile, a Memphis crime lord has ordered Hack, a hit man, to stop Colt. Hack, too, expresses a desire for redemption. Fueled by either remorse or revenge (or a combination of both), Thompson’s convincing characters race toward an inevitable and explosive showdown.”

Outside the Law is released!


Pulp Fiction Cover of the Day


Today’s Links

‘Six Four’ avoids every crime-fiction cliche. The reward is a gripping novelHideo Yokoyama’s complex, ingenious and engrossing new novel, “Six Four,” has no serial killers, no femmes fatales, no locked-room murders, no torture, no sexually repressed villains, not even much in the way of forensic evidence.

Book review: The Death of Kings by Rennie AirthThe 1938 murder of a young actress was an open-and-shut case for Kent police… an itinerant farm worker confessed and was hanged for his crime. But was it a miscarriage of justice?

Emma Flint’s shattering debut, ‘Little Deaths,’ leads crime fiction roundupIt has been a long time since a novel captured a time and place as powerfully as Emma Flint’s shattering debut, “Little Deaths.” Inspired by real-life events, the book imparts a poisonous nostalgia in evoking working-class lives in Queens, N.Y., in 1965 — a year after young stabbing victim Kitty Genovese, a bar manager, had her screams for help ignored outside her apartment in that borough’s Kew Gardens neighborhood.

I use a variety of methods to stay mentally  and physically focused while I’m trying to write a novel, and this is important to me because I don’t spend all day writing. I may go days without being able to sit down with the characters, and I need to be able to jump right back in whenever I do. So, one of the big challenges for me during the writing of Outside the Law was staying organized for the long haul.  Both physically and mentally.

Outside-02-215x330Physically, writing a 60,000+ novel can get cumbersome, depending on how you’re going about it. I’m like several writer friends I know — I start a Word document and just start banging words out. Which sounds like a great idea until you’re deep into the story, and you need to refer back to an earlier scene or timeline. Then you have to go back and search through pages and pages until you find it. That eats up a lot of time.

So, my preferred method of the actual writing is to do it by chapter, with each chapter being a separate file on my laptop (this is done after I longhand the chapter/scene/thought in a notebook I keep readily available). I also keep one “master” document that is the entire manuscript, and as I finish a chapter, I copy and paste it into the master. This helps if I want to read the whole thing for some reason, plus it lets me see where I am as far as word count or page numbers go. I don’t write to a word count, but that’s a useful rudder when you’re well into the story.

About two years ago, I decided I wanted to try something different as far as “manuscript management” (as I call it). I downloaded a trial version of Scriveners, a powerful multi-function program that allows a writer to accomplish a multitude of tasks: notes, rewrites, cross-reference, etc.

It took some getting used to — you have to learn how to use the system, after all — and in the end I found myself spending more time “getting organized” than I did actually writing. So I went back to my old-fashioned way: my notebook and laptop, a white board and (my nod to “modern times”) and “mind mapping” software that I love because it is my second white board.

And I do love a white board. That’s where I throw timelines, questions, character sketches, whatever brainstorm comes to mind. I’m a visual person, so seeing an idea is much more helpful to me than a spreadsheet or an index card. The software I use does the same thing. I use Mind Node for two simple reasons: it’s free and it’s easy. And because it’s on my laptop, I have a white board  with me everywhere I go — and that comes in handy.

That’s where the ideas usually start. For Outside the Law, I took a look at where the characters were at the end of Deep Blood, and wrote the names on the board . At the top of board, I wrote “Redemption vs. Justice.” Then, as ideas I came to me I filled in the blank, then fleshed out more ideas on Mind Node (where there no physical limitations like the size of the board). The more I did this, the more the story shaped up and pretty soon I was writing it out in my notebook, a chapter or a scene at a time.

(Not to get ahead of myself, but once I finished Outside the Law, I started thinking about ideas for the next Colt Harper book. I wrote three things on the white board: 1. A briefcase full of money; 2. a cemetery; 3. a severed foot.)

After 3 ½ years in the making, it’s hard to believe I’m now three weeks away from the launch of my latest novel, Outside the Law (coming 1 February from Brash Books).

Writing this novel has been by far my most interesting and, I think, productive writing session yet. But it was not without its challenges. Like a lot of writers I know, I started out with a grand idea and a lot of words clogging up my head, and so I embarked on the tale in December 2013. I cranked out nearly 10,000 words over a holiday vacation week and felt pretty good about where I was headed.

Then reality set in. Ten thousand words is a commitment — once I’m into it that deep, I have to finish it. And that takes a long time. Once the initial excitement of a new idea, a new start, a new 10,000 words wears off, I’m left looking down that long, empty highway and thinking, “What the hell did I just do?”

I think the question I get asked the most when people find out I write fiction is: “Where do you find the time?”

Answer: I have no idea, because most times, I don’t.

writingOTL will be my fourth novel, and I have yet to establish a “routine” in writing. The closest I came was years ago, writing A Simple Murder, when I was able to dedicate at least one hour a night to writing. Sometimes that turned out to be 15 minutes; some nights it was two hours. And I wrote the entire novel on a computer, notes and all.

But these days, I write whenever I’m able. I keep a notebook handy. For Deep Blood and now OTL, I’ve gone back to my original method – I longhand the draft – in pieces – then write it up on my laptop when time permits. This gives me the chance to read it again and edit a little as I go. I tend to write in chapters — if I get started with an idea, it is usually the “what happens next” idea, and I write it until I think it’s done. And that usually means the next chapter, or at least enough to propel the “what happens next” part a little farther down the line.

Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of handwriting. But it’s therapeutic for me, and for some reason keeps me better organized (not that a look inside that notebook would reveal any such organization). And when I’m using a pencil and paper, I tend to fall right into the story in a way I don’t when I’m in front of a computer screen. So, I write late at night, or early in the morning, or at the car repair shop, or on the commuter train (which is where I did most of my “daily” writing for Outside the Law).

That’s a big part of the reason why it took 3 ½ years to write it. Fortunately, I was under no deadline pressure except my own. I wrote when I could and I knew I’d know when I was done.

More on staying organized later.

Pulp Fiction Cover of the Day


Today’s links:

Crime novelist Agatha Christie helped in uncovering Iraq’s ancient NimrudHer diligence and face cream cleaned Nimrud’s most famous ivory. She captured the archaeological dig in Iraq on celluloid and Kodak film, developing the prints in water painstakingly filtered from the nearby Tigris River. And every day, after she balanced the books and arranged for the next day’s meals, Agatha Christie sat down to write.

The Best and Latest in Crime FictionHave advances in technology killed the traditional escape novel? Thomas Perry raises that question in THE OLD MAN (Mysterious Press, $26) by forcing a retired intelligence agent to run for his life using obsolete survival techniques.

Review: New crime fiction from Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves and othersThirty books in, most crime writers start to flag, but not Val McDermid. This latest book, featuring cold case Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, is as slickly plotted and polished as her earliest works, and that’s saying a lot because McDermid’s work always slashes like a knife.


A round-up of stuff that interests me … in no particular order

Graeme Macrae Burnet on ‘His Bloody Project,’ Crime Writing and Eloquent Murderers

When Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlisted novel “His Bloody Project” was first released, it had an initial print run of just 1,500 copies.

Recommended Read (courtesy of Ron Earl Phillips over at Shotgun Honey): The Night Cyclist, by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror novelette about a middle-aged chef whose nightly bicycle ride home is interrupted by an unexpected encounter

Colson Whitehead is finalist for Kirkus fiction prize

Colson Whitehead is up for another literary honor, the Kirkus Prize for fiction. Whitehead’s acclaimed “The Underground Railroad,” a novel set during the Civil War, is among six nominees announced Tuesday for the $50,000 award. Whitehead’s book is also on the longlist for the National Book Awards and last month was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club.

From Glasgow — Interview: Douglas Skelton on Crime, Fiction, and Byres Road

The inaugural Byres Road Book Festival arrives this September weekend with a celebration of the written word and a plethora of award-winning authors and innovative events.

sherlock-holmesRetracing the Moorland Steps of Sherlock Holmes Writer Arthur Conan Doyle

Lindsay Turpin retraces the steps taken by Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle as he penned his most famous work.