Friday, October 26, 2012

Crimes, both real and imaginary

I know, I know, it's about time I posted here, sorry.  Things have been crazy with the post-release of The Bookseller, and the edits for the next two books due (and which I should be doing now, thanks very much).

But from the imaginary crimes of Paris, to a heinous one I experienced last night.  Actually, two.

And, yes, you might argue that objectively they aren't as serious as murder or kidnapping, I suppose I'd go along with that but. . . well, here's what happened.

I was riding out with APD, as I do on a Thursday night, and we're in heavy but moving traffic.  Alongside us roars a dude on a motorcycle, chugging up the hard shoulder to avoid traffic.  You know, the kind of thing that makes your blood boil as you sit in your car and choke down the exhaust of the guy in front of you.

Except I'm in a police car now.

We put the lights on and off we go, bringing this terrorist to justice with a $160 ticket.  The motorcyclist shaking his head in disgust, no doubt thinking "Don't you cops have anything better to do?"

In fact, the officer I was with laughed and acknowledged that people do think that but he explained to me about the guy who'd pulled over onto the hard shoulder last week, so he could safely have his heart attack somewhere he wouldn't be a danger and somewhere the police and ambulance could get to him.

"That's what the shoulder is for," he said.  True that.

The second offense was even more cheeky.  With another officer, later at night.  Busy busy intersection, each direction having two lanes and a turn lane (I'd tell you which one, but I don't remember, sorry!).   Woman on a bicycle rides up next to us, inches forward, and when she spots a gap in the traffic she tootles across the intersection to the other side.

If nothing else, I was amazed because it was dark and there were a lot of cars out there.  My officer says, "No, she didn't just do that," and off we go.

This lady took her ticket with good grace, acknowledging how dangerous that maneuver had been. Afterwards, when I asked if he felt a little silly pulling over someone on a bike, the officer said, "No because I'd rather give her a ticket than scrape her body off the road."  Again, true that.

And as both officers pointed out, by pulling over those cheeky scofflaws they made every single motorist within sight smile.

On an unrelated topic, I wanted to bring together the real and imaginary crimes of the world by pointing you to an article I wrote for the Huffington Post, it just appeared on their website.

It's about some crimes and mysteries around the world that, if they'd been written in a novel, would have made fiction readers shake their heads with disbelief.  It's called:  8 True Crimes That Are Stranger Than Fiction

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oprah & Me!

This deserves its own post :- gave me a rave review!

"a tale of a city that's gritty, utterly real and filled with surprises both horrifying and tender. Much like a baguette, this fabulous story is crusty on the outside, sweet on the inside, and once you've had a bit, you can't wait for more."

And who doesn't like baguettes?

Now, I've talked to people who are a little snooty when it comes to Oprah's Book Club and I'll say this: anything that gets people reading is fantastic in my book.  And anything that gets people reading my book is doubly fantastic!

Also, look at some of the other names on that list of "Unputdownable Mysteries": Patricia Highsmith, Kate Atkinson, Stieg Larsson, and Ruth Rendell.  Esteemed company, and damned fine writers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The launch of The Bookseller - unholy success!

I have to say, it was probably one of the most fun nights of my life. 

When we arrived at BookPeople, the kids were thrilled to see my name on the movie-style sign above the main doors.  Yes, it was the kids who were the most thrilled.... ahem.

Inside, a friend started counting the number of people there and gave up at seventy (they wouldn't stand still!).  I was particularly pleased to have a judge named Lynch and a policeman named Constable, very appropriate for a crime novel.

I was also honored to have author David Lindsey and his wife Joyce there, and absolutely thrilled to see half a dozen people in the audience I didn't even know.  This one lady, who I got to meet afterwards, was in the front row ignoring the melee as she sat and read the book.   I kept staring at her, thinking, "Wow, wow."

I mingled and chatted with people before it all began, starry-eyed and pinching myself constantly because it seemed a little unreal.

I spoke for about fifteen minutes talking about my writing process, about my journey to bcoming published.

And spent about thirty minutes answering questions from the audience about the book, the characters, and whatever else they wanted to know.

Then I sat and signed books for friends and strangers alike, until...


...they ran out of books!  They sold every single copy of The Bookseller on the night!

With my lovely niece Emma (on her birthday, in fact) and my handsome nephew Noah.

On the way out, someone pointed out that a store employee had recommended the book.  Very cool indeed.

So thank you to all who came out to support me, I am forever grateful.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My big, BIG day!!

Today sees the release of The Bookseller

A novel that grew roots in a cafe in Paris and then took me six months to write.  A novel that took me another three months to successfully pitch to an agent.  A novel that was on submission to publishers for just over a year.

Twenty-three rejections from agents, a dozen more from publishers, years + months of work and frustration and. . . I loved every minute of it.

Why?  Because now it's on the shelves of book stores all over America (also, it is available in all e-book formats, in case you're wondering), and that includes the impressive, always busy, incredibly supportive BookPeople right here in Austin.  I walked into the store last night for another author's signing and look what I saw - my kids were so excited they ran over even before I did:

Look above mine, the name Michael Robotham mean anything?  It should.  Stellar writer, mega bestseller, and last night after his signing we had a beer together.

Oh yes, I'm name dropping.  Want another one?  How about Bill Landay, the author of NYT besteller Defending Jacob, which is one of crime fiction's smash hits of 2012.  And rightly so.  We met at a writing conference I went to this past weekend and here we are enjoying a Macallan 12 together.

And for sheer coolness, at the same event, I also shared a pizza with David Rich, first-time novelist but script writer for McGyver, for heaven's sake.  I know, we shared a dang pizza!

Also, I like this picture, below.  It's me and a friend, Jamie Mason, holding up our new books at a signing table.  Please note the long line of people waiting for our autographs who obscure the photo.  Okay, fine, so our books weren't out in time to sell at last weekend's conference.  But people did come by and say hello, and we managed to give them cards and large, goofy grins.

But back to now.  This is the only night of the week I'm not doing something related to my book launch.  Instead, I'm taking Henry (aka mini-Me, as you can see from the pic below) to his soccer practice.

I'm glad, too, because this week has been about the book, the launch, and I'm looking forward to sitting in a chair next to my friend Andy, watching the kids play the beautiful game for an hour.  It'll be sunny and I'll have no place else to be and nothing demanding my attention for those sixty minutes.

And the thing is, I'm having so much fun right now that when that peaceful moment is up, I'll be back at it, planning, emailing, worrying, enjoying.  Mostly enjoying.

Okay, so in case you are new to the blog and want to learn more about the book, let me provide some links.
Tomorrow my mum flies in for the launch, we're expecting between sixty and eighty people to show up.  If you happen to be in or near Austin, please come by because the more the merrier.

Oh, and Happy Release Day to me!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Euphemisms and excuses.

Plain speak is good, but euphemisms are way funnier.  And excuses can be even better to those of us in the business who have heard, well, pretty much every single one there is.  I've come across a few lately, used by defense lawyers or probation officers as they work hard to paint their client's actions in a positive light., or used by those charged to explain their own actions. 
  • "He's a natural leader."   To explain: a series of bullying and otherwise aggressive acts;
  • "He's a follower."  To explain: membership in a gang;
  • "Those were not my pants."  To explain: discovery of marijuana in pocket;
  • "They're my shorts, but I loaned them to my cousin and didn't check the pockets."  To explain: as above;
  • "He's a hard-worker and motivated to provide for his family."  To explain: the ability to break into and steal from nine cars in one night;
  • "He's gifted for his age."  To explain: how a twelve-year-old was able to boost and then drive a car;
  • "He was looking forward to shop class the next day."  To explain: the screwdrivers and hammer found on the suspect at two in the morning in a parking lot.
Of course, given the difficulty of their jobs, I give much leeway to probation officers and defense attorneys in their use of the imagination.

Now, if you'll excuse me there's a defense lawyer here to see me.  He's a natural leader, so if the meeting doesn't go well please send flowers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Look what arrived!

The books not the kids! I've had the pleasure of their company for a while.

(My wife's away so I had my kids take pics of me holding some books. Apparently they won't grow up to be photographers . . .  or surgeons.)

But that's okay, they are much cuter than me anyway.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mysterious disappearances... should we keep looking?

And by "we," I mean someone else.  I'm kinda busy lately.

But what made me ask the question was this article at CNN about Jimmy Hoffa, another tip led to another fruitless search for his body.  Should we spend the public's time and money looking, after almost 40 years?

You tell me.

It did get me wondering about other mysterious disappearances, though, and a little research dug up (hehe) a few I didn't know about.  And as a mystery writer, you can bet some of these got my imagination running, as I simply love to incorporate history into my stories -- Nazi-hunting and turn-of-the-century romantic poetry feature in The Bookseller:

  • Between 1139 and 1337 B.C., the Egyptian Nefertiti vanished during the 14th year of her husband Akhenaten's reign.  Apparently, no records of her exist after this time so those in the not-know have offered reasons for her disappearance:  maybe death due to plague, possibly she assumed a new identity, or might have ruled with, and eventually succeeded, Akhenaten on the throne. . . Fragments of a shabti (a funerary figurine) have been found with her name on them, but her mummy has never been found.  Calling Indiana Jones...
  • The body of rebel slave Spartacus has never been found (I'm guessing it's a little late), even though he was presumed killed in battle in 71 B.C., although no one really knows for sure.
  • A few years later, in 53 B.C., a group of Belgian waffles, I mean warriors, led by Ambiorix managed to cross the Rhine and disappear without a trace.  I mention this only because it makes me think of Asterix, who would never do something so silly as disappear without a trace.
  • Leaping forward to more modern times (lots of people disappeared at sea in the interim, but is that really mysterious?  Really??) brings us to 1826 when William Morgan upped and vanished, right before his book critical of Freemasonry was published.  His book about rum, on the other hand, was a great success and led to... oh, what, that was a different Morgan?
  • You've probably heard of this one: 1872 – Captain Benjamin Briggs (aged 37) , his wife Sarah Elizabeth (31), daughter Sophia Matilda (2), and all seven crew members were missing when the Mary Celeste was found adrift in choppy seas some 400 miles east of the Azores. Their disappearances are the core of "one of the most durable mysteries in nautical history," says the Smithsonian Magazine.  And they should know.
  • In 1910, Dorothy Arnold (because if your name is 'Dorothy,' you had to be born in 1910) was a 25-year-old socialite and perfume heiress.  Lucky her, right?  Except she vanished after buying a book in New York City. Apparently, she intended to walk through Central Park but was never seen again.
  • Ah, yes, because this is my blog I have to mention a serial killer: Bela Kiss (great name, eh?), aged 25, a Hungarian who murdered twenty-four young women prior to his enrollment in the Austro-Hungarian Army in the First World War.  Upon the discovery of his crimes he was traced to a Serbian military hospital, but escaped a few days before investigators arrived. Although there were several reported sightings of the killer (notably in New York in 1932), his true fate remains a mystery.
  • In 1926, Agatha Christie, the British crime writer and huge inspiration to me, famously disappeared and, although she reappeared sometime later, the actual reason for her disappearance remains a mystery.  Kudos for coming back, unlike everyone else in this list...
  • ... but maybe these guys will: in 1937, Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe (24 & 28) escaped from Alcatraz prison and disappeared. Authorities presumed that they drowned, but no bodies were ever recovered.  Of course they'd be knocking 100 years old by now, so not much chance of them pulling an Agatha at this point.
  • And then there was D.B. Cooper, who in 1971 collected a ransom of $200,000 and then parachuted from the rear stairs of a Boeing 727 at 10,000 feet.  He was never seen again, though I believe some of the money was recovered.  Some of it.  Pretty daring considering 200 grand wouldn't pay off a student loan, these days.
As to the question of whether we should keep looking for the disappeared who are, pretty clearly, dead by now, what do you think?  We should consider their families who ought to have closure more than we consider the cost of the occasional FBI agent with a shovel in his hand, shouldn't we?

In the meantime, I may have come up with a storyline involving a long-disappeared serial killer who is driven to commit murder by his discovery of the the tomb of Nefertiti...