Review: R.G. Belsky scores a direct hit with Shooting for the Stars

by G. Robert Frazier

One of the most common pieces of advice for authors is to write what you know.

R.G. Belsky knows journalism.

shooting-for-the-starsA former managing editor for NBCNews.com and the New York Daily News, Belsky has used that career of skill sets to create a thoroughly authentic investigative reporter in Gil Malloy. In his second adventure, Shooting for the Stars (Atria, 2015), the tenacious and oft-times cynical Malloy is convinced the murder of a local television personality is intrinsically linked to the thirty-year-old unsolved murder of Hollywood movie diva Laura Marlowe.

Malloy is perhaps more akin to Mike Hammer, James Rockford, or Jake Gittes with a nose for news and a knack for getting in trouble. You just don’t see many reporters of his ilk anymore.

His tenacity soon rankles his editor, an assortment of suspects, and even a local mob boss. With each new interview, Malloy uncovers a new name or a long buried secret leading to a whole new line of questioning and ample plot twists. More than enough to keep readers rapidly flipping pages.
While the thickly layered mystery is riveting in itself, Belsky heaps on a healthy dose of sharp-tongued dialogue and shrewd wit. But at the same time, he reveals a more vulnerable side to Malloy, who suffers from occasional anxiety attacks and a troubled love life.

Shooting for the Stars is the followup to The Kennedy Connection, but readers don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this outing. Malloy’s next mystery, Blonde Ice, is already drawing rave reviews across the internet.

A winner of the 2016 Claymore Award presented by the Killer Nashville writer’s conference, Belsky is an author to watch.

View all my reviews

Chabon: Embarrass yourself by asking parents, grandparents their stories

mediumWhen you’re sitting around the Christmas tree with family this year, especially if you are lucky enough to still be in the presence of your grandparents or parents, you might want to take the opportunity to get to know more about them. And no, not just their political take on Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or global warming or the Dakota Access pipeline. Rather, really get to know them: who they were growing up, what their hopes and dreams were, how they spent their time, how they dressed, who their friends were.

“If your grandparents are still alive, embarrass them and yourself. Try to think about the things you really want to know about and ask them,” said Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose newest book, Moonglow, is a novel about his grandfather’s life told as a memoir.

Chabon talked about the book and his career as a novelist with fellow novelist Ann Patchett before a packed theater of fans at the Nashville Public Library in Downtown Nashville on Sunday.

Read my full blog now at BookPage.

There’s no fantasy in The Dead of Winter

by Jean Rabe

If you search for my titles on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, you’ll discover I’ve written roughly three dozen fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00072]I’ve been in the game a while, and it felt like now was a good time to acquire a new writing wardrobe.

So I traded in my wizard’s robe for a sheriff’s badge and moved my fiction from a magical realm to ultra-rural Spencer County, Indiana. Seriously. Ultra. Rural. It’s a great place to set uncozy-cozies.

Switching to writing mysteries was the perfect choice for me—I read mysteries. I have always read mysteries. My bookshelves are overcrowded with mysteries and thrillers. And I delight in mystery movies. About time I started writing mysteries, dontcha think?

I’d attended a few Bouchercon festivals back when I was writing about wizards and dragons (I love writing about wizards and dragons, by the way, and likely won’t entirely abandon it). I always made it a point to go to writing conventions outside of my genre—hence my trips to the World Horror Con and World Mystery Con. I figured there was an element of mystery and horror to fantasy and science fiction, and I sat in the front row during seminars at those conventions to soak in those elements.

And I attended Killer Nashville. I entered that convention’s Claymore competition in 2015 with my first mystery novel: Christmas Card Killer, and I took second place.

“I can write mysteries,” I announced at the Killer Nashville awards banquet.

“You sure can,” Deni Dietz answered. She judged the finalists, and so read my entry in its entirety. She pressed her business card into my hand before I left the convention and asked me to contact her, as she was interested in buying Christmas Card Killer for Five Star. The publisher, however, phased out its mystery line, and instead Deni blurbed my book for Imajin, which accepted the manuscript. The book releases November 1, and its title has changed to The Dead of Winter, the publisher wisely pointing out I would have a longer time to market the book if I took Christmas off the cover of the book.

THE DEAD OF WINTER was a blast—lots of fun to read! Jean Rabe’s characters come to life through the written word, and it takes a real writing talent to accomplish this feat.

Denise Dietz, USA Today bestselling author

Switching writing genres wasn’t as easy as I expected. Not that I couldn’t write mysteries…I once had an editor at Tor Books tell me I could write in “whatever damn genre” I wanted to. But I had trouble connecting to professionals in the mystery field; all my contacts were in fantasy and science fiction. When I met with agents at Killer Nashville 2015 regarding my manuscript, some of them asked me why I just didn’t stick with fantasy, since that’s where my audience and history was. I pointed out that I might get the inkling in the future to write another fantasy, but that right now I wanted to craft mysteries, specifically murder mysteries. Two agents told me they wouldn’t represent an author who dabbled in more than one genre. Killer Nashville Author Guest Donald Bain, who writes marvelous Murder She Wrote tie-in novels as well as his own material, told me to stay away from those lazy agents. He also told me I could write mysteries if I wanted to.

Some folks said I would need to change my author name to write mysteries since Jean Rabe

jean-rabe-and-wrink

Jean Rabe and Wrink

was a fantasy and science fiction author. So I was prepared to do that, settling on J.E. Mooney. But the Imajin publisher didn’t want The Dead of Winter by J.E. Mooney. She wanted The Dead of Winter by Jean Rabe, and said that Jean Rabe could write mysteries if she wanted to. She suggested that some of the readers of my fantasy and science fiction novels might also try my mystery books. My fingers are crossed that she’s right.

 

I find the mystery genre more difficult to write in, which is some of the appeal to me. I can’t use magic spells to get my characters out of a fix, and I can’t craft the landscape and creatures any which way I please. Setting something in the real world, present-day, means I have to follow maps, be up on area politics and demographics, and know the community’s history. It takes more studying and research than crafting from whole cloth…at least it does for me. And because I am a technological dinosaur, shunning the latest iPhone and tablet whoseywhatzits in favor of spiral binders, I have to immerse myself in electronics stores, browse Best Buy advertisements, and query my tech-savvy friends. Fortunately, several of my friends are addicted to iPhones and all the whoseywhatzits they can acquire; they are a great resource.

Maybe I’ll eventually find an agent who will represent me no matter what I write. I met with two agents at the 2016 Killer Nashville who were at least open to the notion. I’ll send them my current work-in-progress when it’s finished and see what they think. It’s a mystery.

So maybe the agent thing will happen.

Maybe it won’t.

Maybe I don’t need an agent. I’ve managed to sell more than two dozen novels on my own, a few hitting the USA Today Bestsellers list.

And I sold my first mystery…The Dead of Winter. My wonderful publisher has asked for a sequel, and I’m plotting that now, tentatively titled The Dead of Night. Hmmm…dead is the running theme here.

I really can write mysteries…as Jean Rabe.

_____

Find The Dead of Winter on Amazon by clicking here. There’s a pre-order special price of 99-cents for the ebook of The Dead of Winter. The price goes up sometime after the November 1 release.

Follow Jean’s blog here. Subscribe to Jean’s newsletter.

 

 

Books: Longmire finds the obvious truth

An Obvious Fact, the 12th novel in Craig Johnson’s popular Longmire series, tries to throw a wrench in the works by moving the titular hero out of his natural element. But Walt Longmire is an element in himself, perfectly capable of functioning in any place and under any circumstance with his usual gruff, hard-fisted dedication to righting wrongs wherever he finds them.

Read my review at BookPage.

Around the Web: A curated list of book news, writing tips and more, because, well,…books.

By G. Robert Frazier

So, I read somewhere that bloggers like myself shouldn’t waste time with these sorts of curated lists. The argument is that it doesn’t say anything about you, the writer, and it potentially sends readers away from your site. I can see the point of that argument, but I don’t entirely agree. For one, I think the following lists say a lot about me. The links below clearly show my interests in the industry and my support for other writers. If I see an industry-related article that might be entertaining or useful, I’ll share it. That said, here are some articles I’ve come across in the last few weeks you may find interesting:

The Authors Guild has now opened up member services to new and unpublished authors, as reported by Digital Book World. The $100 per year Emerging Writer Membership includes a quarterly newsletter, access to liability insurance in case you get sued for plagiarism or libel, marketing and social media advice (that you can get all over the internet), invites to seminars, workshops and writing events (not discounts, mind you, but invites!), access to their writer’s resource library of helpful articles and tips on publishing and promotion of your work. For a complete list of Emerging Writer Membership benefits and details on how to join, visit authorsguild.org/join/emergingwriter. Seems like most of these things you can get now for free by just doing some Google searching.

Amazon has made more changes to its review policy. This time it’s banning so-called incentivized reviews, which are reviews for products, including books, given away in exchange for “honest” reviews. The argument is that those doing the reviews aren’t being entirely honest since they are basically being “paid” for the review by way of a free book. As a result, there are more five-star reviews from incentivized reviewers than your routine readers. Read about it here.

The 2016 National Book award-winner will be announced Nov. 16 in a ceremony in New York City. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is among the five finalists for the honor. Parnassus Books co-owner Ann Patchett, during her booklaunch for Commonwealth in Nashville, said she believes Whitehead will win all the big awards this year, including the Pulitzer. As something of a Civil War buff, I already had plans to read the book. But when he came to Parnassus, I made sure to be there and get an autographed copy. I’ve still got a lot of books ahead of it in my must-read pile, but I’m hoping I can get to it before the year is out.

LitHub recently shared Junot Diaz’s introduction to the Best American Short Stories of 2016, all about his fascination with the literary short form.

Here’s Benjamin Percy on the books he wants to write, a combination of the best of genre and the best literary stylings. I’ve always enjoyed genre novels and never really had room for the so-called literary masters of the craft as I considered them boring and long-winded. I craved action and adventure, thrills and chills. Still do. But, lately, I’ve found myself picking up books I normally wouldn’t. Books like Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington, El Paso by Winston Groom, and the aforementioned Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Books that are literary, but combine action, mystery, and intrigue within their pages. It’s not that my tastes have changed, but that perhaps they have matured. On the one hand, I believe the more I read of such books, the more exposure to their style of fine writing and sentence structure and vocabulary, the more it will rub off on my own writing. In the end, it can only elevate a simple genre tale to a more impactful, meaningful story. Maybe I’ve come to this realization a bit late in my writing career, but I’m willing to explore it. I’m willing to expand and broaden my horizons. That, folks, is how you constantly learn and better yourself. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone. Explore your potential. Hopefully, in the months ahead we’ll see if my new reading habits are reflected in my writing.

The Hollywood Reporter ranked the movie industry’s 25 most sought-after writers, with several novelists making the list.

Jennifer Blanchard shared a handy guide explaining 5 Ways to Plot Your Novel, just in time for National Novel Writing Month.

The always insightful Jeff Goins highlights what professional writers know that amateurs don’t.

As it is approaching Halloween, you may enjoy reading Laura Miller’s introduction to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which was reprinted by LitHub. It’s a somewhat lengthy treatise about the book, its ghosts and its characters, and Jackson. Once you’re done with that, you may find yourself wanting to read Jackson’s book again. I’d actually love to, but I’ve got a backlog of other books to get to. Maybe next Halloween.

While we’re on the subject of horror, you’ve no doubt heard about all the alleged evil clown sightings. Publicity stunt or urban legend, it has admittedly made for some chilling reading. Naturally, LitHub took the opportunity to share this fascinating story on “The Literature of Creepy Clowns.”

Otto Penzler has a penned the introduction to The Big Book of Jack the Ripper, out this year from Vintage Crime. I’m adding it to my Amazon Christmas list.

And if you are still looking for a horror-themed fix, Kevin David Anderson offers these terrifying episodes of Star Trek as a guide to horror among the stars.

Harlequin is about to cash in on the commercial women’s fiction trend by launching a new imprint to its trade program, Graydon House Books. The books will focus on family relationships and “run the gamut from light-hearted humor to emotional tear-jerkers.”

There are some surprising numbers in regard to ebook sales in the October Author Earnings Report. Despite the fluctuating numbers, one thing is clear: Digital books aren’t dead. If anything, they are making another resurgence for your reading attention. Kensington Publishing, for example, has plans to add two digital-first imprints to its Lyrical Press romance line. And, Comixology is debuting a line of exclusive digital comics. Amazon, meanwhile, is now offering free digital books to Prime members as part of its Prime Reading program. The selection is somewhat skimpy compared to what’s out there, but there are a number of potential good reads included in the program. The freebie program is obviously an effort to get folks to dust off the Kindle. Best thing is there’s nothing to lose if you pick a book and don’t like it, ‘cause it’s free. I personally don’t like reading digital books and prefer a physical book to thumb through, and I’ve got more than enough of them on hand already.

I recently saw an advance screening of Deepwater Horizon and thought it was a well-done, though very grim movie. Screenwriter Peter Berg recently related the fascinating account of the challenges encountered in bringing it to the screen.

I recently saw The Girl on the Train at the theater and was a bit disappointed. The movie dragged in many places, the main character was irritating, and the climax wasn’t worth the slow buildup. The Guardian’s latest film blog says the film heralds the return of the Hitchcockian thriller, but I think it falls short of such platitudes. Hoping the book, which I haven’t read yet, will be better.

Podcasts

BookRiot compiled this handy list of 30 podcasts for writers, but, dammit, who’s got time to listen to podcasts when we should be writing!

And finally, there’s this: the new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Just ‘cause, you know, Star Wars.

‘Til next time…

Drunks, rapists, incompetent basketball coaches: an excerpt

Quote

“You have any enemies?” Chief Gray asked.

“None that ever wanted to dump a body on my lawn,” Kramer said, his gaze drifting to a framed photograph of his father on the mantel. The glass had been shattered by a ricochet, but the picture itself was still intact.

“But you do have enemies?” the chief persisted.

“Well, more like disgruntled readers,” Kramer said.

“What would they have to be upset about?”

“The Democrat reports a lot of crime stories. Lot of people don’t like it when we put their name out there for the world to see. Drunks. Rapists. Incompetent basketball coaches. We get a lot of complaints from people who didn’t get their paper delivered.”

– excerpt from River’s End by G. Robert Frazier