Thursday, March 29, 2018

Oh, the Streets of Rome Are Filled with Rubble

Wish list for the next ten years of your life. 

From Jim

No one knows exactly when the music will stop. You hope there’ll be a chair available when it does, but eventually the seats fill up and you’re out. As sad as that might be, it’s inevitable so you might as well accept the bitter truth that, tôt ou tard, we’re all going to shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m at an age when thoughts of mortality are beginning to creep in, but I’ll take aging over the alternative any day. And that’s why I have ambitions. For this post, I’ll stick to the writing life, keeping my personal goals to myself.

In the next ten years, I’d like to:

1. Write as many damn books and short stories as I can. We can’t live forever, but our work has a chance. 

2. Meet and get to know as many readers and writers as I can. I love the community and find the company inspirational. That means lots of conferences. Not just the older, more-established ones, but all of them. Bring ’em on. As Tom Joad said, “I’ll be there, Ma.” And I hope to see you all there until they take me out feet first. 

3. Produce that one great book that we all feel we have inside. I’m proud of my books, but I don’t for a minute presume to think I’ve written my best work yet. I’ve got The Band’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” running through me head as I write this. And once I’ve written that great novel, I jolly well intend to write another one. Better. And then another.

4. Achieve the financial freedom to accomplish the goals enumerated above. I don’t need to be rich, but travel and booze don’t come cheap. And I like travel and booze.

5. Get one of my books reviewed in the goddamn New York Times.

6. Stay out of jail.

7. Eradicate the improper usage of “beg the question” from public and private dialogue.

8. Thumb my nose at anyone who aspires to transcend the genre. Ours is the best genre. Why would anyone want to transcend it?

9. Avoid ever appearing on the front page of the New York Post or the New York Daily News. Any tabloid paper, for that matter. Nothing good ever comes of that.

And finally,

10. Wear an ascot and get away with it.

So, while I’d love to have thirty-plus years left in the tank, I’ll content myself with these ten for now. Check back in 2028 for the next installment. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What a ride

by Dietrich Kalteis

Wish list for the next ten years of your life. 

Making it through the next ten years should be at the top of anybody’s list. But, let’s take that as a given. How I live those years is the key to it.

“Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I’m here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube.” — Hunter S. Thompson

Sometimes fast, sometimes slow and sometimes a happy medium. Life’s about finding a balance, and at the end of it I want have done everything worth doing. And I want to have fun doing it. They say laughter keeps us healthy, so tell me a joke or put on The Big Lebowski, or Tracey Ullman doing Angela Merkel, or one of George Carlin’s standup rants.

It’s about being with people that light me up, like my wife and son, family and friends. And it’s about surrounding myself with what influences and inspires me. Aside from those special people, I’m influenced and inspired by art. There’s soul in a Kandinsky painting, the essence of Paris at night in a Brassaï, and magic in those unguarded moments captured on Vivian Maier’s streets. There are the songs of Tom Waits, the groove of Miles Davis, and the orchestrations of Tchaikovsky. And there are those great film performances like Gary Oldman’s in The Darkest Hour, and Frances McDormand’s in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Now and then I like to paint, or I take my camera for a walk, looking for something that catches my eye. It’s interesting how many artists explore other creative forms. Bob Dylan paints, Patti Smith writes and explores the visual arts, and Picasso wrote poetry. Billy Bob Thornton and Jeff Bridges have cut albums. Juliette Lewis sings punk, Clint Eastwood plays jazz piano, and Meatloaf and Tom Waits have starred in films. 

Sometimes I dust my guitar more than I play it — I admit I’m better at the listening than the playing but it’s fun anyway. And I’m inspired by all kinds of music. I’ve always got an album playing when I’m working on my stories. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Robert Plant sing “Carry Fire.” Just awesome. 

Norman Mailer was asked what art form he thought a novelist was closest to, and he answered acting. “Because it’s the same work. A novelist and an actor have to know how to inhabit characters.”
Aside from paintings, photos and music, I find inspiration in the pages of great novels like Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, or Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, or The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. There are so many great books to keep me reading for the next ten years. 

Life’s a balance, and if I just sit around writing, reading and playing music, I become dull, so I’ve got to step away from my desk occasionally and get together with family and friends, share a meal or a bottle of wine, got to a party or partake in festive occasions, or take my wife and my two left feet dancing. And sometimes it’s good to push myself and try something I’ve never done — like zip-lining. 

Traveling and visiting places I haven’t been are on the list. They’ve got beaches in Bora Bora, architecture in Rome, restaurants in Paris, pilsner in Munich. What fun to blast a sports car down an Autobahn (although not after the beer in Munich). There are many places I want to see over the next decade, so the key is not to put it off, just plan it and go, because if not now, when?

But it doesn’t always have to be big. The best things in life are free, right? Simple pleasures like walking along the Seawall, feeding the birds, patting a dog, finding a parking spot right where I need one, making that yellow light, enjoying a good cup of coffee, and watching buds turn to blooms. 

I love what I’ve got going on, spending time in a made-up world with my imaginary friends part of the time, and living large in the real one the rest of the time. Yeah, give me ten more years of that.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Ten Years Ahead

Wish list for next 10 years of life:
By Terry Shames

At Left Coast Crime last week I was on a panel that I instigated called It's Now or Never: Late in Life Authors & Protagonists. We were a panel  of women who were either “older” when we started our writing careers or wrote books about older protagonists. Apparently the organizers couldn’t find men in that category—or at least not men who would admit to being older. Not only do I write a protagonist who is “late life,” but I am an (ahem) older author. So looking ten years in the future is hazy. I certainly I hope I’m still around and enjoying life in ten years, but I have to be realistic—in the past few years I have had a few friends with serious illnesses, and a few who died; and they didn’t die young.

There’s another element to this “wish list.” I have had a wonderful, amazing life. I have reached many goals that I never thought were attainable. So it almost feels profligate to wish for more. So the things I wish for are few, if not simple:

1)     Continued good health. I have been ridiculously lucky with my health (where’s the wood?). I work out and eat well—but as well all know, that doesn’t guarantee anything. I few years ago a surgery gone bad left me with permanent damage in my dominant arm and hand. It’s a small problem, and one I can cope with. But it made me aware of the risky business that we call life.
2)     Write many more books. I hope my creative side doesn’t wane. I think of people like Ruth Rendell, who published up to the end of her long life. Not that I can compare myself to her in terms of her writing, but I’d like to think I can continue to come up with good stories that entertain people.

3)     Wait! I said simple. Well, this one is a little more ambitious: More travel for pleasure. I realized recently that becoming a published author meant less travel just for fun, and a lot of travel for business—not that it isn’t fun; but it’s different. I want to go to the Galapagos Islands. I want to go back to Africa. I want to see Budapest and Prague, and Vienna.  Iceland. And another trip to see my beloved Florence, where I was fortunate to live for 18 months.
4)     Another one that isn’t so simple: I want to sell a lot more books. I want to be more “successful.” It’s a daunting task to promote and write at the same time. I envy those writers who began being published when they were younger. They not only have a lot more time ahead of them to write a wide range of books, but they also are more savvy about the world of technology and the world of marketing and promotion. And even if they don’t know much about it, they have plenty of time to learn. I always feel as if I’m playing catch-up, trying to write all the books I have swimming in my head, and still having to figure out how the world of promotion works.

There’s a question that sometimes pops up: If you knew you would die in a year, what would you change? My answer? I’d keep the writing, blow off the promotion, and use the time I save from doing that to inhale more of the wonderful world—with friends and family.

Friday, March 23, 2018

You Never Give Me Your Money

Make a bullet list of your ideal writing-related expenses. Must jibe with the themes of your books. And must be funny.

by Paul D. Marks

Jeeze Louise, a list of ideal writing-related expenses that must jibe with the themes of your books and it has to be funny. Hmm. I went to my Morey Amsterdam book of jokes but none seemed quite appropriate for a list of writing-related expenses. I guess I’ll have to wing it.

And since one has to justify one’s expenses, I’ve added a little description of each and why it’s necessary, rather than make a straight bullet list.  So, that said, here goes:

Internet expense for researching online……..: I want the platinum package, of course. The one that never disconnects and people actually come out to fix it before a month is up. Y’know, the basics. $5,550.

Dinner at my favorite restaurant. This would be research because one must know how the other half eats in order to be able to write about them. Of course, a meal at my favorite restaurant would cost about a measly ten bucks. So my patron and benefactor gets off easy on this one. $10.00. Maybe $15.00, inflation.

New York: Airfare, hotel, food and all expenses trip to NYC. Well, I truly am working on a book set in New York so this one’s not totally a joke. Gotta go there for research. And since an author should be treated to the style to which he isn’t accustomed I think Amy and I should stay in the best hotel, eat in the best restaurants, have the best seats for the theatre, have bodyguards to get us through and lots of insurance in case we don’t make it through. So I’m thinking $300,000.00 for a week’s stay. Hey, it’s New York, it ain’t cheap.
The Jungle Boat Ride at Disneyland
(Probably the closest I'll ever get to a cruise down the Amazon.)

More research: And while I’m at it, I think I might set a future book in New Orleans and one in Paris, Rome and Istanbul (one of the top places I want to go). And let’s not forget that trip I’ve always wanted to take up the Amazon in a boat for that story I’m, uh, writing, so those travel expenses will be necessary too. (I actually do have things set in latter two places, but in scripts I worked on but maybe a novel one of these days so you see I’m planning for the future here.) $2,000,000.73.

My mortgage, I know you’re only allowed to expense your home office if it’s used exclusively for your business, but isn’t every minute of every day spent working/thinking about my writing? And really my entire house is my office…books, papers, computers, tablets…strewn all over the house. You should see it it’s a mess. So $???

I'd like to write off my mortgage.

Will work for food!

My dogs’ food and vet bills: They are after all my writing assistants. $900.00/day. Don’t want them to starve. And I did promise them three weeks paid vacation, a health plan and 401(k) with 10% matching employer contributions in their contracts. That’s gotta come from somewhere.

eBay purchases: I like to scan eBay when I’m trying to think. It relaxes me. So if I sometimes end up buying something shouldn’t I be able to write that off? People have comfort animals. I have comfort goods. Like that submarine that was for sale a while back. I’d really like one. $200,073,037,034,247.44.

Books: I need books and lots of them. Can never have too many. $3250.00/week.

Diet Pepsi: Well, it used to be Diet Cherry Pepsi until they changed it. Then it used to be Diet Cherry Coke until they changed it to Feisty Cherry Coke, which is awful and makes me very feisty. Now we’re just onto plain old Diet Pepsi. Gotta have something to sustain us in the wee hours when the going gets lonely. Definitely a legit writing expense. $283.33/day.

Häagen-Dazs: Kind of like the comfort goods. After a hard day’s writing, it’s a necessity. $936.00/day.

Massage expenses: Sitting at a computer typing away all day makes your muscles sore. Gotta do something about that carpal tunnel syndrome. And since I’m a pampered writer I’d fly in Lucrezia B. straight from Italia (it costs more and is, therefore, better if you spell it that way). I just hope the B doesn’t stand for Borgia. $836,323.00/year. (I actually knew a guy, a hair stylist, who a Saudi prince would fly to Saudi Arabia several times a year just to cut his hair. I don’t know what he was paid, but I’m sure it helped him afford gold-plated shears.

Porsche 911: Well, you gotta get to book signings, plus pizza and beer runs and also to get to SinC-LA and SoCal MWA meetings on time. Might as well go in style. Of course, it is a tad cramped in the Porsche with the chauffeur, who doubles as a bodyguard, and what fun is a Porsche if you don’t drive it yourself. So the chauffeur sits in the passenger seat.  I’d also like that ’67 Pontiac Firebird for my character Duke Rogers in White Heat and the upcoming sequel Broken Windows, since his got burned in the 1992 riots in LA. He would like a replacement and so would I. My two fave cars, the Porsche and that era Firebird: orange with a black vinyl top. $42,500 for the Firebird. Porsche: $191,750. Glad there’s no change on that one.

Time and Materiel: Hey, a writer’s time ought to be worth something. A lot of people don’t seem to think it is but I do, so I’m making up for all those others here. And I want materiel instead of material ’cause, well let’s leave the details for another time: $3,038,384,598,434,933,444,348,102,218,562,034.33

And most important of all, Anti-Depressant drugs: see time and materiel explanation above, add in a whopping dollop of rejection and you definitely need to lay in the Prozac. See the cost of Time and Materiel, triple it, and that’s the cost of the drugs…after the insurance pays its share.

And back to the beginning of this post, who the hell is this Louise anyway?

And now for the usual BSP:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Essential costs for Cathy Ace

This weeks' challenge is: 
Make a bullet list of your ideal writing-related expenses. 

Well, you asked.... 

My around-the-world cruise 2019 
(research for new books featuring globe-trotting sleuth Cait Morgan):

Dog-friendly luxury suite on cruise ship (me, dog & husband)   $65,000
Additional suite on cruise ship (for mother and sister)       $55,000
Delivery of Welsh cakes to fifteen ports of call, globally $5,000
Shore excursions to libraries/bookstores  $20,000
Sunscreen $500
Digital camera with good lenses $2,000
Extra hard-drive for camera $200
Photoshop/photo editing software and training $2,500
Dr. Bernstein weight-loss program, post-cruise, for four $5,000
Doggy diet food post-cruise $500

You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers: