Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com Connecting Readers, Writers, and Books Sat, 05 Sep 2015 16:08:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Are you guilty of taking shortcuts with your writing? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/are-you-guilty-of-taking-shortcuts-with-your-writing/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/are-you-guilty-of-taking-shortcuts-with-your-writing/#comments Sat, 05 Sep 2015 08:00:21 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68305 OUR CRITIQUE GROUP recently discussed using shortcuts in writing and how that practice dilutes the power of a work. What is a writing shortcut? For our purposes a shortcut is the use of a cliche. "Henry was mad." What's wrong with... Read more

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Painted in Waterlogue

OUR CRITIQUE GROUP recently discussed using shortcuts in writing and how that practice dilutes the power of a work.

What is a writing shortcut?

For our purposes a shortcut is the use of a cliche.

“Henry was mad.”

What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with it is that the word mad is one of those empty words that doesn’t show a reader anything.

People in real life display anger any number of ways.  Maybe they sull up and grow quiet.  Maybe they throw something across the room. Maybe they resort to physical violence.  Maybe they curse. Maybe they storm out of the room. See the point?

Rather than saying Henry was mad, a writer should describe Henry is such a way that the reader sees what happens when he loses his temper.

“Henry slammed his hand on the desk so hard a vase fell off and shattered on the floor.” “Henry let out a string of profanity, jumped out of his chair and paced the floor.” “Henry’s face turned as red as a fire engine.” “Henry looked away from Sam, didn’t respond to Sam’s repeated questions about the night before.”

And so forth.

Or take this one.

“They held hands on the beach as they watched a beautiful sunset.”

What’s the shortcut?

Really the whole sentence is a shortcut, but particularly the word beautiful.

Compare that sentence to something like, “Near sunset they walked west along the beach and saw patches of purple, shimmering reflections of brilliant orange light off the few leftover storm clouds. He took her hand as they gazed at the sky. ‘It’s almost as beautiful as you,’ he said as he took her hand. Without looking at him, she squeezed his hand.'”

Okay, maybe that’s a little maudlin, but you can see how much content the description brings to the passage. Also the word beautiful is no longer empty as it was in the first sentence. Now the reader has a point of reference for the word, a mental image of the moment.

Writers resort to shortcuts for a number of reasons, but mainly because they are easy and require little creative thought.

To eliminate shortcuts from her writing an author must dig deeper.

That requires more time and more thought than sticking in a shortcut.

Those who read my blogs know that I am not a fan of re-writing, especially in a first draft.  So they might assume that I would say for the writer to throw in a shortcut here and there while she is working on the first stab at the story and plan to return and fix them on the next run through.

The problem with that approach as I see it is that once a writer commits words to paper, those words tend to set like concrete. They are harder to change a month or two or six months or a year from now when the author runs across them again.  Plus, an author who has used a shortcut on the first draft may not recognize it as such and may read right over it.

In other words shortcuts can be invisible to an author, like blind spots in a car.

So the better practice is for the writer to fix the shortcuts when she sees them, or have a trusted beta reader or editor point them out to her.

Stephen Woodfin is the author of The Revelation Trilogy.

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Do those around you ever think you’re crazy? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/does-writing-dialogue-ever-get-you-in-trouble/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/does-writing-dialogue-ever-get-you-in-trouble/#comments Sat, 05 Sep 2015 07:40:20 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68314   The dialogue I wrote while talking to myself in the Atlanta airport wound up in Secrets of the Dead. THEY LOOKED at me strangely. I ignored them. They exchanged troubled glances. I smiled. “He’s not quite right,” I... Read more

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The dialogue I wrote while talking to myself in the Atlanta airport wound up in Secrets of the Dead.

The dialogue I wrote while talking to myself in the Atlanta airport wound up in Secrets of the Dead.

THEY LOOKED at me strangely.

I ignored them.

They exchanged troubled glances.

I smiled.

“He’s not quite right,” I heard one of them say.

“He may be crazy.”

“Maybe we should do something,” the man in the business suit said.

“What?”

“Report him to authorities.”

The man jeans and sweater laughed.

It was a nervous laugh.

“It’s not against the law to talk to yourself,” he said.

I was sitting at an almost deserted gate in an Atlanta airport.

The hour was late.

I had been traveling most of the day.

I was tired.

And he was right.

I was talking to myself.

“Are you alone?” I asked myself.

“I am.”

I tried to speak as quietly as I could.

I’m not loud.

But my voice carries.

“Where is Leopold?” I asked myself.

“He was impatient.”

“Has he already gone into the clinic?”

“He has.”

“Alone?”

“He carried one of your officers and a soldier with him.”

“Colonel Fleischer?”

“It was.”

“Fleischer likes the glory of it all. He always has. He gets the pictures, and he figures he gets the medal.”

I glanced out the window. Here is where the colonel will laugh caustically, I thought.

I shuddered.

I have to cut the adverb, I thought.

“He won’t be getting the medal,” I told myself. In my mind, I saw the beautiful Liese talking. I even heard the lilt of her voice. She was all business.

“Why not?”

I watched a cynical smile cross the German Captain’s face.

“He and Leopold walked into the clinic eighty-seven minutes ago. They have not come out.”

“Gunshots?”

“Four of them.”

In the back of my brain, I recognized a hint of sadness as it touched the Captain’s eyes.

“Fleischer was a hothead, He was also my friend.”

In my mind, I waited for Liese to respond, but I determined she still had her eyes on the clinic.

“Have you detected any movement inside?” I said to myself. It sounded a lot like the voice of the Captain.

“No.”

“They may all be dead.”

“There were five men inside the clinic and four shots. The sniper thinks he took out one, but it was one shot though a narrow opening. He tried to thread a needle. He does not know for certain. As of yet, no one has left the clinic. Leopold and the colonel would have walked out by now. If anyone is alive, it’s the American, and he can wait ‘til dark.”

“I won’t wait that long.”

The lady sitting across from me stood and moved to another row of seats.

“What’s he talking about now?” asked the man in the business suit.

“He’s talking about killing somebody.”

“Here?”

“Don’t know where,” answered the lady. “But I heard him mention the word sniper.”

“He looks dangerous.”

“He’s an old man.”

“Those are the ones you can’t trust.”

They kept staring at me.

And they made sure they were nowhere near me when we boarded the plane.

Writing dialogue for your next novel is a good way to while away the time when you’re traveling and bored.

But be careful.

A few wrong words here or there might get you in trouble.

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Lawrence Block: Confessions of a Hard Case Crime Novelist http://venturegalleries.com/blog/lawrence-block-confessions-of-a-hard-case-crime-novelist/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/lawrence-block-confessions-of-a-hard-case-crime-novelist/#comments Sat, 05 Sep 2015 06:55:14 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68331 ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK Mystery Grandmaster Lawrence Block Interviewed by Paul Bishop Lawrence Block collects writing honors and awards like his hitman character Keller collects stamps – here a few there a few, until the set is... Read more

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1

ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK

Mystery Grandmaster Lawrence Block

Interviewed by Paul Bishop

Lawrence Block collects writing honors and awards like his hitman character Keller collects stamps – here a few there a few, until the set is complete. Unlike Keller and his stamps, Block doesn’t have to bid for his prizes via auction. He has earned each and every one of them by doing what he does best – writing.

After almost a hundred novels, an uncountable – ever increasing – number of short stories, and cherished collections of writing advice and lore, Block can also lay claim to being the respected grand patriarch of the mystery genre. He has not only inspired several generations of writers (myself included), but continues to be a vitalizing force in the literary world through his association with Hard Case Crime, his forays into self-publishing, his embracing and understanding of the ever widening world of e-books, and keeping his work relevant by fearlessly mastering modern publishing’s obsession with branding, platform building, and marketing.

His latest book, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, is due to be released by Hard Case Crime on September 22nd, sporting a stunning cover by the late Glen Orbik. Ever affable, Block has willingly stepped into the glare of the interrogation room’s bright lights…

Your longevity in an ever fickle literary marketplace is quite a coup. In your early days as a writer, you wrote for specific markets to put food on the table. Later in your career, did you still consciously target your work for specific markets, or write by your instincts, knowing there would always be a favorable reception for your work?

Sometime in the mid-1960s I found my voice as a writer, and since then I’ve written what I wanted to write. Now I’ve always written books in the hope people will read what I write, so I can’t claim to have written exclusively for myself. (Then again, if it’s just for oneself, why bother to write it down?)

You’ve put lie to the cliché of teaching old dogs new tricks. How have you stayed on the cutting edge with your current incursions into self-publishing, your recognition of the importance of e-books, and your successful marketing ventures?

5Well, thank you, but I’m not sure how cutting-edge I am. I’ve been lucky enough to be open to new things – some of them, anyway. As far as self-publishing is concerned, my first venture was in 1985, with Write For Your Life; I had developed an interactional seminar for writers and wanted to see it available in book form. And it looked to be a perfect candidate for self-publishing, as I could sell it at the seminar and piggyback my advertising with the seminar promotion. Plus – a major advantage of self-publishing – I could have copies in hand in a couple of months rather than wait a year and a half. So I printed 5000 copies (there was no Print On Demand option then) and we sold them all. So that predisposed me in favor of publishing my own work when circumstances were right for it.

As for e-books, a fellow at HarperCollins was a big e-book fan back in the early 90s, and incorporated a visit to an e-book factory into my book-tour visit to Cleveland. I knew they had a chance to amount to something when I learned they’d tested an e-Reader at a senior center and found a high level of acceptance; seniors appreciated the backlit screen, the ability to make the type any size they wanted, etc. If a new technology won acceptance among the people you’d think would most resist it, I had to figure it had a future.

E-book sales figures kept increasing, but it was hard to tell if they would ever amount to anything. And then Kindle came along, and with it the opportunity to publish one’s own backlist titles, and, well, one thing led to another, didn’t it?

In what ways has your fiction writing mirrored your life, or is there no comparison?

I don’t know that it has. I suspect the later work reflects a more mature worldview, but as far as the facts of my life are concerned, I’m not sure I’ve mined them much. There are certain parallels, I suppose. I stopped drinking a few years before Matthew Scudder did, for example. But that may be the only thing his life and my life have in common. And Bernie Rhodenbarr’s life of crime was inspired by my own fantasy of what I might do, having hit a low point in my career and being cut out for nothing else. Maybe I could be a burglar, I thought.

Having written so many books, both series and stand-alones, do you still find new plots and characters popping up in your head demanding to be put on the page?

3Hardly ever. Ideas do occur, and I think them through and decide the hell with them.

The new book, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, is very much the exception. In May of 2014, my wife and I were in a taxi en route to JFK, where we were to board a flight for two weeks in Belgium. Hard Case’s edition of Borderline had just been published after having been mercifully out of print for half a century. And, incredibly, it was getting excellent reviews, a far better reception than I could have hoped for.

“You know,” I said to Lynne, “it might be fun to write something like that again. Something straightforward and hard-charging and pulpy. That might be fun.”

“It might,” she said.

And fifteen, twenty seconds later, I straightened up in my seat and said, “I’ve got an idea.”

Yeah, just like that. Now ideas come around all the time, and most of them find their way to Idea Heaven, and that’s the end of it. But this stayed in my mind and I found myself thinking about it for the next two weeks, and it grew and developed, and when we got back to New York I used Airbnb to book an apartment on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, and I took a train there the second week in July and came home four weeks later with the book written.

Will we be treated to more Lawrence Block from Hard Case Crime or – as The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons was such a success – in a new self-publishing venture?

Oh, lord, I dunno. I think my next project will be an updating of Writing the Novel From Plot to Print. It was my first book for fiction writers, and it’s still going strong almost forty years after I wrote it, but it needs updating and needs new material and, all in all, needs several weeks of concentrated effort. I’m not sure how I’ll want to publish it, but that’s not something I need to know until the work is done, and I’m not sure when I’ll get to it.

And will there be more novels? Maybe, maybe not. I feel complete as far as all my series characters are concerned. But I may find something I want to write, and may decide I’ve got the time and energy for it. Time will tell. It generally does.

My thanks to Lawrence Block for his time and thoughtful answers. Now go buy The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

TO READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES CLICK HERE

THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES

In the depths of her blue eyes, He glimpsed – murder…

Cashed out from the NYPD after 24 years, Doak Miller operates as a private eye in steamy small-town Florida, doing jobs for the local police. Like posing as a hit man and wearing a wire to incriminate a local wife who’s looking to get rid of her husband. But when he sees the wife, when he looks into her deep blue eyes…

He falls – and falls hard. Soon he’s working with her, against his employer, plotting a devious plan that could get her free from her husband and put millions in her bank account. But can they do it without landing in jail? And once he’s kindled his taste for killing…will he be able to stop at one?

TO BUY THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES CLICK HERE

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER: Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective of the Year. He continues to work privately as an expert in deception and interrogation. His fifteen novels include five in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series. His latest novel, Lie Catchers, begins a new series featuring LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall.

www.paulbishopbooks.com Twitter Facebook Amazon

Paul Bishop is the author of Lie Catcher.

LIE

 

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American Images: Mission San Francisco de la Espada by John English http://venturegalleries.com/blog/american-images-mission-san-francisco-de-la-espada-by-john-english/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/american-images-mission-san-francisco-de-la-espada-by-john-english/#comments Sat, 05 Sep 2015 06:40:46 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68253 IMAGE OF THE DAY MISSION SAN FRANCISCO DE LA ESPADA PHOTOGRAPHER: JOHN ENGLISH San Antonio has been molded in the spirit of the padres, baptized by a river that winds, twist, and meanders through the city – as the Indians used to say – like... Read more

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IMAGE OF THE DAY

MISSION SAN FRANCISCO DE LA ESPADA

PHOTOGRAPHER: JOHN ENGLISH

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San Antonio has been molded in the spirit of the padres, baptized by a river that winds, twist, and meanders through the city – as the Indians used to say – like a drunken old man going home at night.

The Spanish came in 1724 because there was a river. They were looking for a home. During those hardship days of the eighteenth century, the river became the lifeline for five Spanish missions that stand, even today, with the pride and dignity of their heritage.

One is Mission San Francisco de la Espada, located about a mile away from the unique Espada Dam. The dam, made from adobe mixed with goat’s milk, is an engineering paradox. It curves the wrong way, yet has withstood every flood for the past two centuries.

When the Texas army reached San Antonio in the territory’s struggle for independence, Jim Bowie and William Travis used Espada as a stronghold to withstand the opening volleys of conflict with the Mexican forces of Santa Ana.

Both men would leave Espada and die in the final battle of the Alamo.

To gaze at the mission is to glimpse another era.

Artist/photographer John English has captured the warmth, beauty, and spirit of a time that was and is no more.

He pointed out, “After their retreat from East Texas in 1731, the founders of San Francisco de los Tejas moved the mission to the San Antonio River and renamed it San Francisco de la Espada.

“Mission Espada appears as remote today as it did in the mid 1700’s. It boasts the best-preserved segments of the historic acequias (the irrigation system designed to provide water for crops) part of which includes the still working Espada Dam and Aqueduct.”

Within the ruins of the mission’s walls are a granary, the missionary quarters, and a fortified mission. The kilns of Espada are the only known lime kilns in Texas that survived the Spanish Colonial period.

The mission was built as a sign of peace.

It felt the brunt of war.

John English, in this photograph of the cross, has transported us back to the spirit of a sacred and holy place that refused to die or fade away with the passage of time.

John English

John English

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The Lost Books: Were they classics or pulp? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-lost-books-were-they-classics-are-pulp/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-lost-books-were-they-classics-are-pulp/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 07:40:49 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68310 The Droeshout portrait of William Shakespeare as it appears on the title page of the first folio. This is the final, or second state, of the engraving.   I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED with lost treasures. I grew up in Texas listening to... Read more

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The Droeshout portrait of William Shakespeare as it appears on the title page of the first folio. This is the final, or second state, of the engraving.

The Droeshout portrait of William Shakespeare as it appears on the title page of the first folio. This is the final, or second state, of the engraving.

 

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED with lost treasures. I grew up in Texas listening to gossip, rumors, legends, myths, and tales of lost gold and silver mines. Sam Bass buried the money he took from a bank in Round Rock. A rogue band of Confederate soldiers hid saddlebags of stolen gold in a dry creek among the barren mountains of the Big Bend. There was always a map. Everybody had a map. Lives had been lost to confiscate the map or protect the map. Nobody had a map. It was gone. The treasure was gone.

And where did it go?

The question has always haunted me.

I feel the same way when I read about lost books.

We all know that Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. They made him a literary giant for the ages.

But what happened to Margites?

It was his first epic poem, a comedy, written sometime around 700 B. C. We only know that Margites even exists because Aristotle, wrote in On the Art of Poetry, that Homer “was the first to indicate the forms that comedy was to assume, for his Margites bears the same relationship to comedies as his Iliad and Odyssey bear to our tragedies.”

No one knows the story.

No one knows anything about the hero.

But Aristotle did pilfer a few lines and worked them into Alchibiades, including “He knew many things, but all badly.” And Plato managed to weave this line from Margites into his book, Nicomachean Ethics: “The gods taught him neither to dig nor to plough, nor any other skill; he failed in every craft.”

Not a page-turner, perhaps, but I would like to know what happened to the book.

Where did it go?

And why was it lost?

William Shakespeare wrote Cardenio, and some evidence exists that one of his theatrical companies, the King’s Men, performed the play for King James I in May of 1633.

Then the play simply vanished.

It was nowhere to be found.

And, with the passing of centuries, it has become of Holy Grail of all things Shakespeare.

There is some speculation that the plot may have been inspired by a scene from Don Quixote, involving a character named Cardenio. After all, Don Quixote was published a year earlier, and there is no reason to think that Shakespeare would have been ignorant of the story.

Novelist John Marche wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “Never mind that we would have an entirely new play by Shakespeare to watch, the work would be a direct link between the founder of the modern novel and the greatest playwright of all time, a connection between the Spanish and British literary traditions at their sources, and a meeting of the grandest expressions of competing colonial powers. If Cardenio existed, it would redefine the concept of comparative literature.”

But where did it go?

And why was it lost?

Jane Austen did not write mysteries.

But she left one when she died in 1817 at the age of forty-two.

As Time Magazine would say in 1975, she left behind eleven chapters of an unfinished novel that “would tantalize posterity.”

The plot, at least the hint that she gave us, was pure Jane Austen. Those eleven chapters set the scene, introduced us to a few characters, hinted at the theme, and, without any warning, the story came to an abrupt end.

Did Jane Austen grow tired of it?

Did she decide that the story wasn’t worth telling?

Were the missing pages written then misplaced?

Several writers stepped forward to complete the missing ending to Sanditon.

But none of them were Jane Austen, and they couldn’t write like Jane Austen, and they had no luck at all in trying to copy her style. Anne Telscombe, a well-known Australian novelist, did complete the book, but a reviewer for Time Magazine wrote; “If Janeites take their author like warm milk at bedtime, then Tellscombe’s book is watery milk.”

Lost.

Gone.

And posterity is indeed tantalized.

In 1922, Hadley Hemingway, the first wife of the great novelist, left Paris on a train and rode to Lausanne, Switzerland, to meet her husband, Ernest.

Nothing unusual about that that.

She had packed several of his short stories and a partial novel in a suitcase.

All were originals. All had been written in longhand.

That’s simply the way Hemingway wrote his stories.

Hadley arrived in Lausanne.

The suitcase didn’t. It had been stolen. And the short stories, along with the partial novel, were lost forever.

Hemingway never sat down to rewrite them.

Did the loss trouble him?

Hemingway once said that he would have gone to the hospital and had surgery if he knew it would erase the memory of the loss. It was the one wound he could not cure, and, over a drink or two, he was known to say the missing manuscripts were the reason he decided to divorce Hadley.

However, as author Stuart Kelly, once said, “Had he spent the next ten years trying to perfect his immature jottings, we might never have seen the novels of which he was capable.”

It’s true. Then again, the novel – base on his own experience in World War I – might have been the greatest of them all.

That’s the tragedy of lost books. We don’t know if they were good or bad. We don’t know if they would have changed the literary landscape. We don’t know if they would have been required reading in college.

Were they classics?

Or pulp?

We just don’t know.

Caleb Pirtle is the author of Conspiracy of Lies.

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The Story Behind Hard Case Crime Books http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-story-behind-hard-case-crime-books/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-story-behind-hard-case-crime-books/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 07:00:23 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68337 THE HARD CASE CRIME/LAWRENCE BLOCK CONNECTION Hard Case Crime Editor, Charles Ardai Interviewed by Paul Bishop On September 22nd, Hard Case Crime, in conjunction with Titan Books, will be publishing  the latest novel by the mystery... Read more

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THE HARD CASE CRIME/LAWRENCE BLOCK CONNECTION

Hard Case Crime Editor, Charles Ardai

Interviewed by Paul Bishop

On September 22nd, Hard Case Crime, in conjunction with Titan Books, will be publishing  the latest novel by the mystery genre’s most honored writer, Lawrence Block. THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES is a tightly wound, nasty, noir thriller just waiting to put a bullet in your brain. The sordid tale centers on an ex-New York cop private-eyeing it in Florida, who is bewitched by a local femme fatale with a plan to quickly become a widow. The book has been characterized as James M. Cain on Viagra. If you are unsure what that means, your noir education is sadly incomplete.

This is far from the first time Hard Case Crime and Lawrence Block have conspired together. In fact, their relationship is as tightly intertwined as THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES and her hooked ex-cop.

Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai has professed both his admiration for Block as a writer and as a friend. With the publication of THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES, the eleventh collaboration between Block and Hard Case Crime, Ardai has agreed to face the bright lights and rubber hoses of the interrogation room…

Can we start by getting a little background on the guy who turned Hard Case Crime into the imprint of choice for hardboiled/noir fans?

Yes, of course. What would you like to know?

What was your initial vision for Hard Case Crime and how has it expanded as the imprint gained traction and impact?

2When Max and I cooked up this crazy scheme, it was like a pair of heisters in a Donald Westlake novel – or a Lawrence Block novel, for that matter. We met in a bar and talked over drinks in a dark corner, dreaming up plans and thinking about the impossibility of pulling them off. And then we went and did it.

Our original vision was that we wanted to publish new books and republish undeservedly forgotten old ones of the sort we loved to read when we were younger: slim, tight, high-velocity crime stories without an ounce of fat or a wasted page, with lots of sex appeal both in the prose and on the painted covers, and with a low enough cover price that they could be impulse buys, cheap entertainment like a movie ticket. That mission hasn’t changed, though the cover price has gone up (much like the price of a movie ticket has). But some things have changed.

When we started, Max and I thought maybe we’d publish half a dozen or a dozen titles and be done, since no one but us would want the things. We’re now well over one hundred, with more on tap. When we started, no one had heard of us and writers weren’t sending us new manuscripts, so most of our titles were reprints of old material. Now, we’ve used up most of the reprints we set out to do, but we’ve got submissions of new books flowing in at a rate of more than one thousand per year – so most of our books these days are new ones, or at least ones that have never appeared in print before, like our discoveries by James M. Cain and Samuel Fuller and Westlake. And we’ve broadened our mandate a tiny little bit. We never did a novel with a supernatural element until Stephen King brought us JOYLAND. Before Michael Crichton’s EASY GO, we hadn’t done a novel that was more adventure than crime fiction, with archaeologists searching for a lost tomb in the sands of Egypt. I’m not saying we’ll do a lot of those – but when you’ve got Stephen King and Michael Crichton excited about working with you, you take some chances.

What was the first Lawrence Block book you read…What was it about the story or the writing that hooked you?

6It’s the writing – always the writing. Larry’s plots are ingenious and marvelous and I love them, but it’s his voice that hooks you. He could write about fly fishing (and has) or stamp collecting (and has) or literally anything else on earth and make it engaging and irresistible. When he writes about crime and sex, that’s the perfect storm of voice and subject matter. But a Lawrence Block shopping list would be more entertaining than half the novels out there.

I’m pretty sure my first Block novel was a Bernie Rhodenbarr, possibly THE BURGLAR WHO PAINTED LIKE MONDRIAN, which is still one of my favorites. But long before I knew him as a novelist (or as a friend), I knew him from his brilliant short stories in ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE and ALFRED HITCHCOCK MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

When did you first meet Lawrence Block…Did you stalk him or was it a casual encounter?

He likes to tell the story of how the first time he met me I was dressed in a skin-tight bodysuit with my face painted silver, pretending to be a robot at a book fair on Fifth Avenue. This is true. I was an intern at ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE, and we got pressed into service manning their booth. The taller intern got to be Darth Vader. I was left with robot. And no one told me you’re supposed to wear something under a skin-tight bodysuit, so it’s a miracle I didn’t get arrested, or worse. But I didn’t. And Larry was there, at the same fair, signing his latest novel. I’d contacted him to see if he would write an introduction to one of the first anthologies I’d ever edited, a crime/horror collection called GREAT TALES OF MADNESS AND THE MACABRE. He’d agreed, so I had to get him a copy of the manuscript. And it didn’t occur to me that delivering it to him silver-faced and wearing a frankly obscene bodysuit was perhaps not the best way to begin a professional relationship.

But look, we’re still working together a quarter of a century later, so who’s to say I was wrong?

How did the Hard Case Crime/Lawrence Block connection begin and then intertwine?

When I started reading Larry’s novels, I just couldn’t devour them fast enough. I hunted down copies of every single one – or at least every one I could find, back in those pre-Internet days – and loved them all. So when the time came to start Hard Case Crime, and I went to my shelves to pick out candidates to reissue, what do you think I found? Alongside all the Chandler and Graham Greene and so forth – books we couldn’t reissue because they were very much still in print – there was my collection of Block novels, some of them well and truly obscure, some out of print for years. So I picked out one of my favorites – my copy was called SWEET SLOW DEATH, but it had originally been published as MONA – and I approached Larry with the idea of making it the very first Hard Case Crime novel. (The second would be our first original novel, and my partner Max was writing that one. I’d write our second original. But we wanted something bigger than the two of us to kick the line off.) And happily Larry said yes, taking a chance on two knights errant on this most quixotic of quests. His only condition was that we allow him to give the book back the title it was original meant to bear: GRIFTER’S GAME.

1The rest, as they say, is history. GRIFTER’S GAME was a hit, the line continued, and each year I went back to Larry to plunder his backlist further. We did THE GIRL WITH THE LONG GREEN HEART, which may be my favorite con man novel of all time. Then he brought us an obscurity called LUCKY AT CARDS that had never been published under his real name (and was nearly as good a con novel as LONG GREEN HEART). Then there was A DIET OF TREACLE, about drug users in Greenwich Village, and KILLING CASTRO, about what you’d think a book called KILLING CASTRO would be about.

And then a strange thing happened. Larry wrote a new book, a very sexual, very violent book about a female serial killer out to rid the world of every man she’s ever slept with, and he decided that Hard Case Crime would be the right publisher to bring it out. We were thrilled to do so, and GETTING OFF became our first ever Hard Case Crime hardcover original. There have been others since. When the Liam Neeson movie version of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES came out, we published a paperback tie-in edition of the novel. Together with the collectible house Subterranean Press, we did a collection of Larry’s short stories, CATCH AND RELEASE, and a top-to-toe Ace Doubles-style pairing of two rare novels with lesbian themes, STRANGE EMBRACE and 69 BARROW STREET. And now we are beyond excited to get to publish a second brand-new Block novel, THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES. As a Block fan from way, way back, I can’t tell you what a thrill it is for me to bring a new Block novel into the world.

Now partnered with Titan Books, what does the future hold for Hard Case Crime…and can fans look forward to more offerings from the Hard Case Crime/Lawrence Block connection?

As long as Larry and I are still around and working, I imagine there will be more Block/Hard Case Crime books to look forward to. Our next, in 2016, will be a truly rare find, the very first crime novel Larry ever wrote, which only ever got published under a fake name and of which he didn’t own a copy – he didn’t even know what title the book was published under! But after a search that lasted years and spanned the globe, one of his eagle eyed readers found a copy – and we’re honored to bring it out. We’re working on the cover painting right now. In fact, as soon as I finish typing this sentence, my next job is to audition models to play the part of the book’s femme fatale, posing in a white cashmere sweater and nothing else.

It’s a hard job, but I grit my teeth and do it. For the fans, you understand.

Thanks to Charles Ardai for making time for this interview and for continuing to keep Hard Case Crime on the cutting edge of the mystery genre.

TO READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES CLICK HERE

THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES

In the depths of her blue eyes, He glimpsed – murder… 

Cashed out from the NYPD after 24 years, Doak Miller operates as a private eye in steamy small-town Florida, doing jobs for the local police. Like posing as a hit man and wearing a wire to incriminate a local wife who’s looking to get rid of her husband. But when he sees the wife, when he looks into her deep blue eyes…

He falls – and falls hard. Soon he’s working with her, against his employer, plotting a devious plan that could get her free from her husband and put millions in her bank account. But can they do it without landing in jail? And once he’s kindled his taste for killing…will he be able to stop at one?

TO BUY THE GIRL WITH THE DEEP BLUE EYES CLICK HERE

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER: Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective of the Year. He continues to work privately as an expert in deception and interrogation. His fifteen novels include five in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series. His latest novel, Lie Catchers, begins a new series featuring LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall.

www.paulbishopbooks.com Twitter Facebook Amazon

Paul Bishop is the author of Lie Catchers.

LIE

 

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The Beauty of Death http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-beauty-of-death/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-beauty-of-death/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 06:50:34 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68348 by Rika Inami of Japan Rika likes tanka, she says, " because it is nearer the person, which is different from haiku.  Haiku is more abstract than tanka. So we can't express ourselves enough." Deep shadow of the desolate dead tree Is it a... Read more

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Dead tree-1

by Rika Inami of Japan

Rika likes tanka, she says, ” because it is nearer the person, which is different from haiku.  Haiku is more abstract than tanka. So we can’t express ourselves enough.”

Deep shadow

of the desolate dead tree

Is it a spirit ?

Still, you tell me stories 

You, were here bygone days.

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Always Taking Life Sunny Side Up http://venturegalleries.com/blog/always-taking-life-sunny-side-up/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/always-taking-life-sunny-side-up/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 06:45:08 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68300 A moment of prayer and peace for H. Bryan Poff THE YEARS ARE MANY since we’ve been able to count the number of wars worldwide on the fingers of one hand. In the 1950s, a keen observer questioned whether we’d know what to do with ourselves... Read more

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A moment of prayer and peace for H. Poff

A moment of prayer and peace for H. Bryan Poff

THE YEARS ARE MANY since we’ve been able to count the number of wars worldwide on the fingers of one hand. In the 1950s, a keen observer questioned whether we’d know what to do with ourselves “if peace ever breaks out.”

Today, we are flummoxed by this query, since meaningful peace seems unlikely, far over the rainbow. We are a restless, short-fused culture, warring at all levels.

Christians pray for peace, whether or not the “breaking out” variety. A few dozen of us were of such mind the other day when a wonderful friend was laid to rest. H. Bryan Poff wanted to live to be 105, missing his goal by about three months. Many stories were shared about his colorful, committed life. We agreed that—as in horseshoes, hand grenades and close-to-the-pin in golf—Mr. Poff’s coming close to his age goal counted greatly.

*****

   This wildcatter, with a memory that amazed, ate onion rings and pork ribs–full orders, please–as recently as two years ago. Involved in every major Texas oil discovery over a 95-year period, he was active in exploration until his death.

His regimen called for going to bed at 5 p.m., then arising at 3 a.m. for Bible study, usually in Proverbs. During the half-dozen years I knew him, he spoke only positively of his fellow man, taking life “sunny side up.” He found only positives in a world awash in negativity.

*****

 

Don Newbury

Don Newbury

At his Rose Hill Cemetery graveside service, he would have noted the nice breeze, shade trees and the tranquility of the setting. He’d have liked the length of the service, too—a scant twenty minutes, as per directions.

Dr. Jimmie Nelson, officiant and close friend, spoke about Mr. Poff’s frequent discussion of drilling sixteen straight dry holes. “He thanked the Lord for being with him and went on to the next site.” Mr. Poff believed a “short memory is a blessing in the oil business.” He also considered optimism to be an important trait. “I’ve got both,” he said.

A man of deep conviction and prayer who credited God for his long and fruitful life, Mr. Poff lived out his motto: “Always go down one more foot.”

*****

   We were warned there might be gunfire across the street at the Arlington Police Academy. Another “known” commonly accepted were the noises of trains passing by and aircraft flying overhead.

Sure enough, all of this occurred. Mr. Poff would have joked that we should interpret the practice gunfire as a salute to a Texan gone home. He might have mentioned the thrill of watching trains during his youth when automobiles were rare indeed.

From the generation credited with “get a horse” expressions, he’d have marveled at a sky filled with DFW Airport traffic. He’d likewise have been supportive of the police helicopter flying above the cemetery, its noise noticed for mere seconds.

Hitting backspace on life’s keyboard, “what if’s” dominated. Had his burial instead of his birth occurred on Dec. 5, 1910, his grave would have been the first on the rolling hills, several miles east of the city. There was no Rose Hill Cemetery at the time; it started in 1929, 19 years after Mr. Poff’s birth.

*****

   A promoter of peace for the Prince of Peace, he learned long ago about the importance of being still. Despite unavoidable noises during the service, we were of like mind to be still. We shared Mr. Poff’s ever present faith in God, who has intervened in the affairs of mankind throughout history and is still in charge.

After 9-11, Mr. Poff sponsored a twice-monthly prayer breakfast at his beloved Petroleum Club, where he was a charter member. It met until his health rendered him unable to attend early last year. Attendees were from all walks of life—it was a “whosoever will, may come” time for food, fellowship and Bible study led by Dr. Nelson, who was the teacher for a half-dozen years.

To end the memorial service, Dennis Bell, a bible study participant who visited Mr. Poff regularly, voiced the closing prayer. He’s a BNSF Railway executive. As he spoke, a train passed by. No one seemed to notice. For a few brief and shining moments that afternoon, peace had broken out.

*****

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com.

Don Newbury is the author of the inspirational and humorous When The Porch Light’s On.

WhenThePorchLightsOn-3dLeft

 

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Friday’s Sampler: Lucky Rocks by Murray Richter http://venturegalleries.com/blog/fridays-sampler-lucky-rocks-by-murray-richter/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/fridays-sampler-lucky-rocks-by-murray-richter/#comments Fri, 04 Sep 2015 06:40:45 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68295 In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Lucky Rocks, a Young... Read more

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Lucky_Rocks_cover_KDP 1

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Friday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Lucky Rocks, a Young Adult novel of friendship, discovery, secrets,and adventure by Murray Richter.

As one reviewer wrote: A great read! The author has the rare talent of being able to make the reader experience the joy and friendship of living in a less complicated time. The characters sense of humor and belief in justice contribute to an extremely well written work.

The Story

Led by a one-legged World War II vet, Kevin, Preech and Rudy face a summer they’ll never forget. From fishing to endless pranks that would make the most seasoned trickster jealous, they think they have the answer to all of life’s mysteries.

But as the steamy Texas days of summer roll by, Kevin and Preech discover Rudy’s secret – a secret that could change their lives forever.

Murray Richter

Murray Richter

The Sampler

I took a deep breath and looked out over the pond. The air had the thick, sweet taste of summer, and I felt as free as a bird. People from out of town said our summer air was like breathing through cloth, but we loved it.

The pond was about as big as five football fields. Half of the pond had cattails along the shore, and a mysterious tree-covered island in the middle. The island was about the size of ten school buses mashed together and doubled its size when the rains didn’t come.

I arched my eyebrows and asked, “Do y’all want to try to swim to the island and fish it today? There’s gotta be huge fish that ain’t ever seen a hook swimmin’ around there right this second.”

“I do, I really do,” answered Preech, “but I still couldn’t get a straight answer if water moccasins can bite under water. I asked the vet, a policeman, and my dad and they didn’t know. And all the books I read at the library told me everything about snakes except for if they can bite under water. I’ll keep workin’ on it though.”

As we walked to the edge of the pond, I watched startled frogs burp their discontent and dive into the coffee-colored water. Baitfish swirled everywhere, an excellent sign that the bite was on.

Preech shielded his eyes from the sun with his hand and looked at the pond. “There’s gotta be a way to capture and use indigenous fish for bait. I just don’t know how to get ‘em.”

“Ohh, there you go again, Alfred Einstein,” Rudy muttered. “I swear you just sit around and make up words.”

Preech shook his head. “No, it was actually the word for yesterday in the word-of-the-day calendar I got at home.”

“That’s messed up in so many ways,” sighed Rudy. “Did you ever check to make sure the guy who wrote that wasn’t drunk or something? Or it’s not some joke book with words that aren’t even real? Half of the words you say make you sound like a Klingon.”

“That’s what word of the day toilet paper is for,” answered Preech, and we all busted out laughing.

“So, how do you reckon we get some of those indigestion fish? Do they sell them at the bait shop?” Rudy asked.

“No, the real name is actually, umm, I mean, you’re right. It is indigestion fish. Make sure you use that in a paper at school and you’ll do great. It means they are from a particular area or live in a certain place, like the minnows and small perch that live in the water here. I’ve drawn up some plans for a big basket net thing to catch them with, but I can’t figure out how to make it work.”

I smiled and slapped him on the back. “If anyone can, you can, Preech, my man.”

Some days we would stop at the bait shack and buy bait and tackle. It was really just a guy that grew worms in a box, sold frozen minnows in plastic bags, and made dough bait out of the stinkiest things on earth. He sold them out of his home, and I could only dream about being so lucky someday. The only problem was it was way on the other side of town. That morning had been a little crazy, and I forgot to think about it.

Rudy pulled the big rocks up next to the pond, and I reached underneath to grab worms to put in our bait can. Preech eased through the weeds and hunted grasshoppers. He was great at catching them and was even better when they were covered with dew. He called dew “earth sweat,” something else that cracked me up every time he said it.

After half an hour, our can was full of worms and Preech’s jar was packed with grasshoppers and crickets. Preech and Rudy attached bobbers, but something told me to fish on the bottom. I put a worm and a cricket on my hook (I had never double-baited with different kinds of bait) and zinged it as far as I could towards the island.

We sat on the grass and laid back against the rocks, waiting for the mayhem to begin. Mayhem was one of Preech’s words for the day a few weeks ago, and it was so fun to think or say I used it every chance I could.

Rudy stood up and walked into the weeds, to go to the bathroom I guessed. “Well Preech my man, I guess our mission for the summer is to get to that island and fish it all day long. Are you in?”

“Heck yeah. I just need to figure out a few things to get us there.” Preech dropped his voice to a whisper. “And another thing is figure out what we can do to help Rudy with Ted. I’ve heard he is turning loco.”

“I’ve been hearin’ stuff too, but Rudy won’t talk at all about it. When I try to say anything about Ted he just clams up and walks away.”

“Same with me. I can build and fix a lot of stuff, but I ain’t got nothin’ when it comes to families…especially parents. Rudy acts normal when Ted is gone to work on the oil rigs, but when he comes back Rudy changes. And I think it’s gettin’ worse.”

“Me too. When Rudy gets them scratches and bruises on him, he says they’re from playin’ football, but I’m scared that it might be—” I stopped talking when I heard Rudy coming back.

“You know fellas, I think the coolest super power would be invisibility,” said Rudy. “We could walk right in the middle of practice for a football team we’re gonna play and figure out what they’re good at and not good at. Then we’ll tell Coach, put together a perfect game plan, and they’ll never know what hit ‘em.”

Football was Rudy’s “thing.” Outside of messing with Preech, it was probably all he thought about. He was by far the best athlete in our class and couldn’t wait for our first year of real football with pads and everything. People were even talking about us winning some games this year, which was a pretty tall order since that hadn’t happened since I was born.

“How ‘bout you Kev?”

“I think mind reading would be the best. I can zone in on chicks’ brain waves to finally figure them out, and use it on teachers to find out when the next dang pop quiz is coming up. I’d tell y’all for free, but sell it to everyone else to help pay for bait and dad’s new barbeque pit.”

“I think time travel would be the coolest,” said Preech. “I could go back in time and meet Jesus, Ben Franklin, and my all-time favorite, Abraham Lincoln. I read that he wasn’t even the main speaker when he did the Gettysburg Address, so I just know I’d be able to get a front row seat. Then I’d travel to the future to terrorize you in the old-folks home or loony bin,” he smiled as he pointed at Rudy. “I’m sure you’ll be in one or the other, or some monks will probably have to build a special one just for you.”

Religion was Preech’s “thing.” He loved everything about church and had read the Bible all the way through. Most everyone went to church, but Preech loved every second and went to all the extra meetings and services they would come up with.

I guess my “thing” was fishing. I could fish every second of every minute of every hour for my whole life and still not get enough.

“You know, I think we should become fishers of men. We catch ‘em, God’ll clean ‘em,” grinned Preech.

“How ‘bout you pray you can walk on water while I push you in,” answered Rudy. Rudy went to church as well, but I think it was mostly to get away from Ted.

I was about to laugh when my pole jerked out of my hand and sailed towards the water. It bounced off a rock, then disappeared into the murky darkness. Without thinking, I jumped in after it.

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Do we really have any control over our book’s destiny? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/do-we-really-have-any-control-over-our-writing/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/do-we-really-have-any-control-over-our-writing/#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2015 07:40:36 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=68278 Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in a scene from The Remains of the Day.   WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE between writers and actors? Not a lot. Actors are hardly ever the characters they portray on stage on in film. The meekest actor... Read more

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Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in a scene from The Remains of the Day.

Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in a scene from The Remains of the Day.

 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE between writers and actors?

Not a lot.

Actors are hardly ever the characters they portray on stage on in film.

The meekest actor may become the meanest villain.

The most heartless actor can touch your heart and make you fall in love.

It’s gift.

Writers are hardly ever the characters they create, mold, and allow to walk across scattered pages of paper.

The gentlest soul can invent the most heinous of plots.

The writer who never laughs can make you laugh out loud.

It’s a gift.

Several weeks ago, I watched Anthony Hopkins dispense good, sound advice that has a deep meaning for us all.

It was an old episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio.

Hopkins was the guest.

Hopkins is the consummate actor.

A student actress in the audience asked him for advice on how to pull herself out of her acting funk.

She kept auditioning.

She gave each performance her best.

She worked hard to master the role.

But still she was rejected.

Over and over again, she was rejected.

What was she doing wrong?

I immediately understood her predicament.

Anthony Hopkins told her: Enjoy the profession as it unfolds for you. Think the best. Just surrender and let go of it. It has nothing to do with you. None of us have any power. We are totally powerless. That’s the great comfort.

He may just as well have been talking to a room full of writers.

We spend long hours with the characters residing in our heads.

We write.

Then we re-write.

We send our manuscripts to editors.

Then we revise the words.

Does the story have holes?

We fill them.

Does the story have a hook?

We develop one.

Does the story have heart?

We give it one.

And we do our best to keep that heart beating.

We produce the most entertaining book we can write.

We find the most striking cover a designer can create.

We add a title that reaches out and grabs a reader by the throat.

And we dare to publish.

From that moment on, we are totally powerless.

From that moment on, the book is out of our hands and beyond our control.

We try to market it.

We try to promote it.

We write blogs.

We place the book on blog tours.

We clog up Twitter and Facebook with tweets about the book and links to the book on Amazon or any other eRetailer that has accepted it.

We buy advertising.

We do all we can do.

Then we hope someone discovers our book.

But, always, we are the mercy of the reader.

Does anyone like the book?

Will anyone buy it?

Will anyone even find it?

If the book fails, who’s to blame?

No one.

As Anthony Hopkins said: It has nothing to do with you.

None of us have any power.

And that’s the great comfort.

Some authors catch lightning in a bottle.

Some don’t.

And hardly anyone ever knows why.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Conspiracy of Lies.Conspiracy-of-Lies-Final-Cover-Hi-Res

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