Thursday, February 16, 2012

The writing of mysteries (pt 2)

This is part two in my series about the steps to publication and here's the overview of what one needs to do to get published, which I'll put at the top of each post as a reminder.
  1. Write a book
  2. Find an agent
  3. Get a publisher

So, step one is to write the book. Well, duh, you might think. But what I mean by that is not just write it, but edit the heck out of it, polish it into the shiny and perfect gem you know it can be. Banging out a first draft and wrapping it up with a nicely typed 'THE END' isn't going to cut it.

I started to write The Bookseller, a mystery novel set in Paris, in November of 2008. Actually, I got the idea for the book while my wife and I were on a trip to Paris. Inspiration, you know. I suspect I ignored my good lady for a good part of the vacation, scribbling away in a tiny notebook as we floated from cafe to cafe. Luckily, she is (a) patient, and (b) likes people-watching, so I think my sin was a forgivable one.

What's your writing process, I hear you ask? Great question. Well, some people write detailed outlines and follow them. Those are organized people, and I'm not one. No, the way I write a story is to bang away at a computer (or scribble in a notebook) and then think, "Oooh, that's a good idea" and stick it in. The few times I've outlined, as I tried to do with the second novel, the story ended up being completely different. For example, I was intending to write about a lorry-driving serial killer who nabs prostitutes and the occasional nun. Neither lorries nor nuns appear in the final story.

Which is cool, because now I don't have to bother outlining any other books because I know that system doesn't work for me. Positive reinforcement for my inherent laziness. Love it.

Back to The Bookseller -- it took me about six months to write, start to finish, and right now stands at 95,000 words. (The minimum length for a publishable novel is about 65,000 words.)

You know, maybe now's a good time to share my promotional blurb, so going forward you can know what The Bookseller is all about:

Hugo Marston, head of security at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, buys an ancient book from his friend Max, at the old bookseller's stall beside the River Seine. As they make the exchange a man appears with a gun in his hand and kidnaps Max, dragging him onto a boat that speeds off towards the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Powerless to save his friend, Hugo launches his own search and enlists the help of his friend and former colleague Tom Green, a semi-retired spook for the CIA. Together they hunt for Max, a search which takes them all over Paris and as far away as the Pyrenees mountains. They discover that Max was a Holocaust survivor and later became a Nazi hunter, but they struggle to tie his disappearance to his grim history, or even to the mysterious old books he sold.

Then other booksellers start to disappear, and their bodies are found floating in the Seine. The police try to shut Hugo out of the investigation but by then Paris is facing a war between rival drug gangs and Hugo is convinced the hostilities have something to do with the murders of these bouquinistes. Then assassins train their sights on Hugo directly. It becomes clear that the only way his body doesn't end up floating in the Seine is if he finds the killer who took Max, before the killer finds him.

With Tom by his side Hugo finally puts the pieces of the puzzle together, connecting the past with the present and leading the police, quite literally, to the enemy's lair.

Just as the killer intended.

I know, you can't wait until it hits the shelves, eh? Not long now . . .


  1. Can't wait to read it! What's the publication date? I'm looking forward to the next parts in the series.

  2. No, actually, I can't wait to read it! It sounds fantastic! And I'm with the first comment - looking forward to the next part in your blog series. :)

  3. I think I'll wait for the movie.

  4. PD: The plan is for it to come out Sept/October, but I don't have a firm date yet. Don't worry, there's no chance of you (or anyone else I know) missing the pub date. :)

    April: Thanks, you are very sweet.

    JB: No, get the book, too. Movies are never as good (and usually very different), plus I'm not sure Clooney or Pitt have signed on to do it yet...


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