Saturday, June 29, 2013

It Takes A Village

It's supposed to get up to one hundred and four degrees in Martinez today. I know Mark Twain complained about Summer in San Francisco but I could really go for a cool City breeze about now. Fortunately I will be heading over the bridge soon.

No one bothered to tell my seven pound, long haired, miniature Dachshund named Peaches that she's bred to be a City girl. She absolutely hates the City. She loves the woods, swimming in the ocean and lakes. Looming trees and coyote howls are fine. Cars and bicycles are not cool. Good thing my mom lives just under a mile away from my apartment and has dogs for Peaches to play with. Peaches regularly gets dropped off with my mom to spare her a nerve racking trip into San Francisco.

Every writer knows how important community is. It's because of my reaching out that I'm another step closer to publishing my book. An old family friend of mine happens to be a professional editor and has agreed to find time in her insanely busy schedule to edit my book. This takes so much off my mind in terms of how to get from point A to point B. No matter how many times I comb through my manuscript I find glaring errors and develop an almost compulsive need to change things that don't need changing. 

Sharon, if you're reading this. Bless you!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Marathon Not A Sprint

It's apparent that some people have zero clue just how difficult it is to write a novel, or at least a good one.

I've written three books previous to Twist. Technically this makes the first book of my Rebecca Ashley series the fourth novel I've written. It took three bad books to get my voice developed enough to write one that I'm proud of and excited to publish.

Enthusiastic, I've given friends a heads up to look for my mystery novel soon. I'm sure you've noticed my new found fondness for social networking sites. I've published some eager posts.

A few friends have responded with, "Oh, you're still working on that?" and "I thought you were finished and working on something else already."

Yes, I'm working on the sequel. I'm also just now preparing for Twist's publication. They say writing a novel is a marathon not a sprint. I think the worst offense committed by self published authors who are actually fantastic writers is they don't take the time to check, double check, and triple check that the format and editing is done. I'm committed to putting out the best product out there I can. Especially if I'm putting my name and a price tag on it.

I should note the people who have implied that as a writer I should be more prolific by now are not writers. There! I'm done with my rant.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So You Have An Idea?

I few days ago an acquaintance asked what I wanted to take advantage of most during my transition phase. I answered, "Publish my novel."

This was the rest of the conversation verbatim!

"Cool. I have always wanted to write a book. I actually have an idea for a sure best seller!"

I found his blind optimism adorable. "Cool. What's it about?"

"I'm not telling you." He responded. "You might steal it!"

I began to laugh. Then I realized he was serious.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Setting As A Character

In college I remember reading about noir film establishing the City it takes place in itself as a character. When I think of Detective Marlowe in action the City of Los Angeles is definitely his regular leading lady. Los Angeles  comes alive when the shows about to go down. I feel that way about San Francisco in my mystery debut for my Rebecca Ashley series.

In Tahoe this weekend I thought about this down at the lake walking the dogs with my mom. The mystery Breach of Promise by Perri O'Shaugessy describes every Tahoe venue utilized in each scene in great detail without detracting from the story. I think about it every time I'm here. 

In regards to my book, now that I'm so close to publishing I'm second guessing everything. Once again the title has changed. That's no little detail. Although I love the title Lavaleire Fatale unfortunately it's not as accessible as I think it should be. The French title, although completely congruent with the plot, could confuse people to what the book is about. With my readers in mind I've changed the title to Twist. 

Peaches and CJ at the Lake

Friday, June 21, 2013

Thank You KPBS and TCM!

Awhile ago I was asked 'Where do you get your passion?' I didn't understand the question and thought it strange. I thought about it again today.

The reason I write and read Mysteries ironically stem from the little snippets of television I was allowed to watch as a child. Mystery Theatre to this day is one of my favorite shows. That along with Tosh.O, Girls, and Game of Thrones.

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, John Thaw as Inspector Morse, and David Suchet as Hercule Poirot kept me riveted to the screen. My Grandma had cable. Her television never deviated from the Turner Classic Movies channel. Humphrey Bogart as Detective Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade catapulted my jump from Agatha Christie to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

I never tire of the noir anti-hero. The dark magic found deciphering events and uncovering hidden truths. Thank you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What's In A Cover?

I chat with a friend using a hands free device as I draw up a blue print of how I want the cover of my San Francisco noir novel to look. I describe the cover in detail. Then, she asks the tough question.

"What does a cover matter? When most books are digital, who's going to care?"

I thought about it. Yes, it makes sense that selling your book through social media networks and by word of mouth one would think, what's in a cover? Once nothing more than protective jackets to safeguard fragile ink and paper from the elements book covers now hold little value. Or do they?

I confess that more than once I judged a digital book by it's cover. I'd put money down that I've probably passed on great books with boring covers. A digital book's cover serves just as much as a promotional tool as it's hard copy brethren's. 

I scold my friend reminding her not to diminish any part of the creative process. This is about having fun! She laughs at me. She loves to argue for argument's sake.

And I know you were playing devil's advocate BTW. Naughty! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Graphic Artist Needed

It's warm and sunny in the City. Rare for Summer. 

On the San Francisco Art Institute's Chestnut street campus atop Russian Hill I search out a Graphic Artist. Once inside the main doors I admire the Spanish tiled fountain. Once inside the halls my footsteps echo in the cathedral like silence. Wait, why is it so quite?'s...Summer! That's how old I am. That's how long I've been out of school. I went out in search of an Art student to collaborate on a project in the middle of June. How embarrassing.

So I meet some of the few San Francisco Art Institute students that linger in the halls. They are chill, down to Earth, and helpful. After he observes me posting fliers a student (I think he's a student) approaches me and asks if he can have one. He explains that his friend might be interested. He is not at all like the pretentious characters in my book. They are fictional. 

As I'm hanging fliers throughout the halls I develop a nagging feeling that my novel may not be well received. Lavaliere Fatale might be considered derogatory. A rude representation of SFAI students. Again, I must emphasize my characters are fictional. They're from my story world. A San Francisco Art Institute that exists on a different dimension in a parallel universe. You can't get mad at fiction!

A helpful photographer took a picture of me by the fountain.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When Talent Isn't Enough

"Call me Ishmael" was rated in 2011 as the most recognizable opening line in Western literature.

The printed three thousand copies of Moby-Dick did not all sell during Herman Melville's lifetime. Today Moby-Dick is considered an iconoclastic piece of great American literature.

There is no guaranteed success in being a writer, but to even have a chance you must continue to expand your body of work. It's difficult for many artists to accept. It's not enough to have a passion, you have to be willing to put the work in and even then, success isn't guaranteed. There's a whole lot of luck involved. 

You'll discover when eyeing the book sale stats of a few best sellers that sometimes talent isn't even required. When my morale is down and I wonder what the hell I'm doing with my time I repeat the mantra, be passionate and enjoy what you do. It's not enough to have talent, you have to work hard at it.

On a side note. I will be visiting The San Francisco Art Institute tomorrow in search of an artist to design the cover of Lavaliere Fatale. I'll post details on how that goes tomorrow evening.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Sequel to Lavaliere Fatale

It's been hard, but now that I have guaranteed help editing and formatting Lavaliere Fatale I can finally focus one hundred percent on it's sequel Holy City. I can't give away too much but I got the idea for Holy City while visiting friends in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It segues perfectly from my San Francisco based Lavaliere Fatale.

The hardest thing for me now is letting go of the impulse to edit the content of my finished book. This morning I had to break routine. I now accept Lavaliere Fatale has a life of it's own. The only thing that can help it is detailed editing. I hate detail editing and you can tell. I'm not very good at it. But not to despair! Help found me!

I've fully transitioned to my next project, Holy City. Holy City was an actual place. A Santa Cruz Mountains roadside attraction. The town of Nazi supporting evangelists in the 1940s. With penny peep shows in miniature churches and propaganda parades it's surreal history sounds like something out of a Stanley Kubrick film. I'm excited!

Some pictures I took to get a feel for the area.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Traditional Publishing versus Self Publishing

Due to present circumstances I must seriously consider self-publishing my Rebecca Ashley series. We hear over the top success stories of authors like Amanda Hocking and E.L. James. Unfortunately this has led to an influx of sub par writers. I'm referring to the 'get rich quick' hacks that now clog Kindle and Amazon searches.

I've read some wonderful self-published books. Most filled with typos but I won't point fingers. I've also began some terrible, terrible self published books.  A few could have gotten better at the end but I didn't have the stomach to reach the finish line. 

This weekend I met writer Dr. Ali Binazir who wrote Amazon's number one rated dating book The Tao of Dating. The down to earth fun loving man was generous with his advise. He swore up and down self publishing is the way to go.

Still, I'm not so sure. Being your own editor, sales manager and working with a non-existent marketing budget is intimidating. But I'm intrigued. 

A picture of my editor.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

First Few Chapters of Twist

I said I would post the following day and didn't. My bad. Below is the first four chapters of Twist. 

I have a laundry list of excuses but the short and sweet of it is the longer I wait to make this book available to the public the more I edit myself into oblivion. I rewrote the entire book, again. I changed my first person tense, again. The intended result is to make my voice more active. I describe my writing style as impressionistic. The readers experience events at the same time as the protagonist blow by blow.



Adrienne Reiter


“What?” my companion stares into my eyes. He adjusts the cufflinks of his blue-grey suit. His own eyes hold the look of confused innocence.
“What do you mean what?” I yell inside the airport. The man in the blue-grey suite lowers the palm of his hand. The universal sign language for ‘keep it down’.
“We’re ditching our luggage? I packed nice stuff. I packed for this trip carefully. And now you’re sending me out into Paris with no clothes?”
“All can be replaced Becca.” My companion is growing inpatient. He flew in from San Francisco with me on a fake passport. He had to lie about his fake identity when we exited the plane. In Paris his alias appears to be ‘wanted’.
“You want me to go shopping in a country where I don’t speak the language by myself while you make all the plans and control all the details.”
“Je parle parfaitment. I’ll take you shopping. Right now you need to calm down. We have to keep moving before security catches up with us. We have no choice but to leave the luggage. I’m glad I didn’t tell you while waiting in line through customs. You’re creating a scene.”
I look into his eyes. His eyes are like stain glass windows. So many different colors pick up the light that shines behind them. I try not to think about all the women he’s taken shopping in Paris.
The cab ride is surreal. I gaze out the car window sleepily. I’ve seen Paris in movies and snap shots. The city of love is breath taking. I feel I’ve entered into a Francois Truffaut film. Tired, I rub my eyes. It’s three in the morning in California. Here in Paris it’s almost noon. Nervous, I was unable to sleep on the plane.
“Hotel Esprit Saint Germaine, s’il vous plait,” my companion directs the cab driver.
The entire time I’ve known my companion he has been mysterious and less than forthcoming. I only get half-truths. And here I am, in a foreign country totally dependent on Mr. Duplicity. Every time my life seems to get easier a monkey wrench gets thrown in. At the moment my monkey wrench wears a Versace suit, Cartier watch, and a tan from sunning in the South of France.
I try to think back to when my life was simpler. Back to when I didn’t know a thing about international art and artifact smuggling. Back to when the farthest east I’d ever been from California was Texas.
We pass by a building I recognize from one of the books I had researched. My companion points at it, then winks at me knowingly. I begin to conjure images, ghostly memories of what I know to have taken place there. I and only a handful of others know what actually happened.
My mind wanders inside the gothic walls, engulfed in the events that had occurred centuries ago.
The Queen of France lies wasting on her deathbed. Paris is held by enemies of the crown. The King has gone rogue and defied all her council. There will be a take over. Her most trusted companion in the room is her alchemist’s apprentice. He stands next to the priest by her side. After the priest finishes a brief prayer he turns to wait in the hall. The Queen gestures for the young man to come to her wheezing and coughing side.
“It’s over there.” She points across the room at a large armoire. “You will know it when you see it. You have the instructions for it’s destruction?”
The young man nods. The alchemist had handed him a written ceremony before sending him to her. The alchemist could not come himself because the priest would have refused the queen her last rites.
Wheezing harder with her hand to her chest the queen strains and struggles to communicate. The young man leans closer to her highness.
“You must destroy it immediately. My enemies know of it and desperately desire it,” she sputters.
The young man nods. The queen, content her wishes will be followed, chokes out her last breath. The priest rejoins them and gives the Queen the last rights she so desperately desired.
Once this is finished the priest hurriedly exits as the young apprentice observes in horror as the queen is lifted off the bed with her sheets and tossed irreverently to the floor with a loud thump. The men in the room proceed to drag the queen’s remains down the corridor.
The take over has begun. Only the apprentice knows the purported divinatory and sovereign power the enchanted object bequeaths. After some rummaging he locates it. Thoughts of his family flood his brain. His wife is pregnant with their fourth child. His mentor may well be in line for execution. The enemy is now his employer. His future unsure, the young apprentice makes a decision to commit a crime countless of men have done before him, and countless will do after him. Break his oath for profit. The young apprentice has no idea of the implication this act will have for centuries to come.
Waking from my daydream I rub my eyes. Now fully present with being in the cab with my companion I feel exhausted. I allow myself to lay my head on his shoulder as the black cab drifts along the streets of Paris towards our hotel.
“I won’t think more on the subject until I get some rest.” I mumble.
“What was that?” asks my companion.
I simply shake my head and fall asleep against his shoulder.

Chapter 1

Four months earlier…

 I spin the dial on my combination lock as retro beats blare haunted promises of burning buildings from my headphones. I swing open my locker and sift through gummed-up half empty paint tubes and stacks of sketch paper. The paintbrush I want has been shoved towards the bottom.
The narrow halls provide little room for the three-part art installation two students drag down the slanted path. A young woman and two men hurry toward me with a giant pinwheel and two large canvases. I scoot out of the way and wait for them to walk by before I turn back to my open locker.
My supply locker at UCLA was more organized than the one I have now at the Institute. I regard the Still Life teacher’s assistant as she waters the ivy plant wrapped around the doorframe of her classroom. Her bright purple fishnets daisy-chain around her legs. I love the art scene in L.A., but San Francisco has a unique flavor I’ve definitely acquired a taste for.
When I married Steven and moved up to San Francisco I applied to art schools around the Bay Area and to my delight was accepted to my first choice, the San Francisco Art Institute! Locals and tourists in the know make the climb up Russian Hill to visit one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
The school’s rich history can be found literally written on its walls. In 1930 Diego Rivera painted murals on the Chestnut Street campus. Plaques and etchings cover its grounds in memorial to how after World War II the Art Institute had become the hub of Abstract Expressionism. The collective work of distinguished painters, photographers and cinematographers made the Art Institute what it is today. Tourists augment the student population to take advantage of the city views of the bridge and the bay along with the Diego Rivera Gallery.
I dig further in my locker then stop. I make out a voice over synthesized bells, harps, and organs from my headphones. I pull my head out of my locker and take a deep breath to get my itchy nerves to calm.
“Excuse me.” shouts a curvy raven-haired woman. Her barley there t-shirt shows off a generous number of tattoos. “Can you move?” It’s Lucy from my Still Life class. She raises a heavily penciled-in eyebrow. It almost touches her short cropped Betty Page bangs.
I recognize part of the art installation she carries. It’s from the courtyard. Now that I realize it is Lucy’s I don’t like it as much.
“That looks heavy. Need a hand?” I ask.
“No thanks. I wouldn’t want to interrupt your music.” Lucy says with a hint of disdain. She eyes my blonde hair and understated outfit, a white tank top and jeans.
I could tell she was thinking about me in my car. Trendy non-remarkable music plays in my car on the only thing that works, FM radio. My car stereo is the least of my problems. The City’s famous hills and pothole ridden streets is brutal on my bucket BMW and the clutch feels like it could drop at any moment. I’ve had the car since high school. Leave it to my parents to find me a car I can’t afford to fix.
My concerns are basic. How am I to afford rent in one of the most expensive cities in the country now that I no longer have alimony? My parents can’t keep up with their own money problems and our relationship is tenuous at best.
My thoughts drift from my car back to my locker where I continue to try and locate my brush. Lucy, the hipster with tattoos of wolves across her chest, doesn’t consider my taste highbrow enough for the Art Institute. Lucy is openly bedding a prolific artist and popular instructor at the Institute, our sculpture instructor James Shaft. It’s common knowledge and the man hasn’t been fired. Lucy is now impossibly cool and demands others to acknowledge it.
.Holier-than-thou attitudes and inflated egos find refuge at the San Francisco Art Institute. The small Russian Hill campus is full of tucked away areas housing secrets. The center walkways are open corridors. Most of the school is open allowing the panoramic views to be accompanied by fresh bay air.
The Art Institute embodies the city’s uniqueness. The nineteen-twenties building bursts with art installations, paintings and sculpture and makes it impossible not to feel inspired. Because of its amazing view of the city, the roof is where we hold ceremonial assemblies and hang out between classes.  
My classroom is empty. There is a note on the door. We are all to meet at the art gallery near our 800 Chestnut Street campus.
“I knew you’d forget to go down to the gallery, so I waited for you here.” Josh says as he walks toward me down the hall. Josh is a handsome half-Asian half-Caucasian young man with a talent for disturbing the quiet around him.
Josh follows me around like an undisciplined puppy. As much as his sardonic sense of humor entertains me it infuriates others. If nothing else, keeping him out of trouble ensures that I’m never bored.
Josh is the popular San Francisco tagger “Up”. He spray-paints “Up” with an arrow next to pretty much everything. The bar named Stand has a hell of a time painting over his Up tag every week, as does the store Grow. But Josh is most famous for his tag at the worst intersection in the Mission. The four stop signs that consistently hold up nearly forty cars at any given time each read Stopped Up. They’ve been replaced so many times that the City finally got tired of it and let them be. The locals find it a clever reference to the City’s constipation as every year the affliction intensifies.
 “Thursdays are spoken word night at Gilligan’s. I saw the line up and it’s a few SFAI students, two that we know. It should be horrible. You interested?”
Gilligan’s bookstore is a favorite hangout of mine that I introduced to Josh. It’s the first place Josh looks for me when he can’t find me. I want to go tonight but lately Josh and I spend almost too much time together. His draw to me as a friend can get possessive so I try to create healthy boundaries.
“I can’t. I have an early day tomorrow.”
“Really? It starts at eight. We can hang out just a couple hours for a change of scenery.”
I eye his face to make sure he doesn’t look too eager.
“Okay,” I say as I pull my hair around my shoulder to get it out of my face.
 Josh nudges me in the other shoulder. After I catch him look down my backside I roll my eyes with a reproachful frown. Josh is quick to flash a fraternal smile. He has yet to learn the ancient ninja art of woman watching. We shouldn’t be able to catch you doing it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reaching Out

It's been quite a few months since I thrust the first book of my Rebecca Ashley mystery series at the literary world for critique and review. Any author who has gone through the process of trying to find an agent knows what a test of patience this is.

Below I've included a brief synopsis of the book. Tomorrow I will post the first three chapters.

Out of fifty plus query letters I've received four solicits for a full manuscript. That makes how many rejections? Basic arithmetic is not my thing. Carry the one, subtract four...

Fifty plus rejections!

I love the San Francisco noir world I created for my protagonist and I stand behind it 110%. I would like to get some fresh opinions. Positive or negative it's up to you. Either will make me happy as long as I get some attention.

Deception... Blackmail... Murder... The Art World.

Rebecca Ashley (Becca) dreams in color, mostly acrylic. It's current day San Francisco. Despite all odds, divorce, eviction and mounting money problems, Becca is determined to finish school. Shortly after Becca has temporarily moved into her Professor Sophie-Anne's live/work loft her Professor is murdered. Becca discovers that no one is who they claim and nothing is as it seems.

Propelled into the underworld of art and artifact smuggling Becca has to decide who to trust. Two of Sophie-Anne's thieving business partners, a charming Brit, Clark Wright, and swashbuckling Belizian, Antoine Palacio reveal Sophie-Anne's murder is tied to a blackmailer who expects a large randsome from the sale of a mysterious French artifact. When the three fail to relinquish his fee the blackmailer murders Sophie-Anne in hopes it will scare the other two thieves into giving up the money.

Now Antoine and Clark are running scared. Only problem is Sophie-Anne was the only one who knew where the object is hidden. Now Becca must find the artifact and decide who to trust or suffer Sophie-Anne's fate.

Thanks for taking a look! I'll be posting the first couple of chapters tomorrow.