Tag Archives: Writing

GOLDFARB’S RED SCARF Short Story Available In Audio

I’ve just completed work on my first real audio project, the spoken-word edition of my short story, Goldfarb’s Red Scarf. This story was published in an anthology released a few years ago called Cast Of Characters, whic h was a collection of short work published by writers in Novelists, Inc.

This was an experiment and a learning experience. I eventually want to bring out audio editions of my novels through the Spearhead Press imprint.

Because this was a first project, I’m giving it away for free as a thank-you for subscribing to my sporadically published newsletter. If you’d like to hear it, just go to:


And don’t worry about having your Inbox inundated. I don’t have the time or the bandwidth to publish a lot of newsletters…

Thanks in advance!


More Reality On The Writing Life…

Thirty years ago, I sold my first novel, Murphy’s Fault. It sold in late 1988, but it didn’t come out until 1990. I remember being so thrilled when Mill’s Bookstore (a long-gone local independent) agreed to give me a book signing.

I sent out something like a hundred invitations (by snailmail, no less) and dozens of phone calls. Invited every friend, every family member… I was one of the founding members of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, so everybody in that group got an invite.

The signing was on a Sunday afternoon. I was terrified. What if nobody showed up?

When I got there, I was thrilled. There was already a crowd forming. The staffers at Mills (one of whom, Michael Sims, would go on to become one of my closest pals and a writer whose success far eclipsed mine) were already bringing out more folding chairs. My parents, my brother and sister-in-law, my grandmother all came…

It was an amazing day. Mills had optimistically way over-ordered, but every one of the 130+ copies they had on hand were snapped up. By the time the signing was over, Michael and Ron Watson were reaching into the front windows to pull out display copies for people.

I was drained, exhausted, spent, but it was one of the best days of my life…

And I thought “Man, I got this nailed… I am on my way now.”

Then reality hit. I’ve never had a signing like that again, to this day. Nowhere near it…

In the 90s, when I was really working this business, I went  on a bunch of book tours, almost all self-financed. Most of those signings were like the one that Sharyn McCrumb and I did at a Little Professor Bookstore in Birmingham, where we sat next to each other at the front of the store during a weekday lunch hour.

Most of the people who came in thought we worked there. I remember someone asking me what the special of the day was in the cafe…

So when I read Tom McAllister’s article today on a website I’ve just discovered called TheMillions.com , it really put me in mind of those early days. And how much I thought the world would beat a path to my door because I’d written a freakin’ book…

Every writer needs to read this. Take a look:


Why Everyone Should Consider Going Indie!

Few industries have changed in the past decade more than the publishing industry. There are some real, viable alternatives to spending your entire career begging for book contracts from mainstream publishers. If you’re lucky enough to get a contract, then you’ll turn to begging for marketing, attention, the next contract…

Not necessary anymore, as this article from Ryan Doughan demonstrates. Great job Ryan.  Check it out: http://bit.ly/2wx3bFh


On The Beauty of Indie Publishing…

I’ve been very quiet on the blog and news front lately, but only because I’ve been so busy on other fronts. The fourth, fifth, and sixth Harry James Denton novels are in the publication pipeline. The fourth, Chain Of Fools, is ready to go. The fifth, Murder Manual, is with the copy editor, and I’m putting together the files for Dirty Money.

My wonderful book cover designer, Dawn Charles at BookGraphics.net, is working on the covers as we speak.

And here’s the beauty of the independent publishing movement–twenty years or so ago, when the Harry James Denton novels were originally published by Ballantine Books, I lost two different battles over titles. My editor didn’t like my original title for the fourth novel, so he vetoed it and called the book Chain Of Fools. I think he was trying to maintain some kind of music riff after Dead Folks’ Blues and Torch Town Boogie.

But when I hear that title, all I can think of is the Aretha Franklin hit from 1968. In fact, if you Google Chain Of Fools, that’s what you get: All Aretha/All The Time…

So since I’m now the publisher as well as the author, I’m reverting back to the original title for that novel, Nobody’s Chain Lays Straight.

Hope everyone likes it. Same with the title to the fifth novel, Murder Manual. The original title for that one was Life’s Little Murder Manual.

So that’s what it’s going back to.


On The End Of A Long Dry Spell…


I admit it: I’ve been in a long dry spell the past few years. From time to time, it happens in a writer’s life. About all you can do is put on your big boy panties and soldier on through it.


So when my former agent and friend Nancy Yost sent me an email on May 12, 2011 and told me about an acquaintance of hers who was looking for a collaborator, I was open to talking about it. She hooked me up with Wayne McDaniel, a writer who lives on the west side in upper Manhattan, a few miles north of my old apartment in Chelsea.


Wayne and I began talking and emailing. He had a spec script he’d written that was based on the life of Alaska’s most famous serial killer, a twisted little eff-stick named Robert Hansen.


This guy was a genuine piece of work. He was a baker in Anchorage with a wife and kids. He was a deacon in the church. Every summer he’d put his wife and kids on a plane to the Lower 48, then he’d go kidnap a woman, fly her (in his illegally piloted Piper Cub) to a secluded spot in the wilderness, then turn her loose in the woods and literally hunt her like wild game (this is the sanitized version; the reality was much worse).


The script had been optioned, Wayne told me, but as so often happens, it had wallowed in the black hole of development hell until it was dead. His agent advised him to write a novelization of the script, sell the book, and thereby get the script back into play.


It was a good strategy, but Wayne was struggling with the novel and wanted to take on a collaborator.


We talked, made nice. I read the script; it was dynamite. I read what he had of the novel; I wanted to get involved.


So we played Let’s Make A Deal and went to work.


Some writers are wary of collaborations, but let me tell you, when they work, it’s magic. And that’s the way it was for us. This was, simply, the most successful collaboration and partnership I’ve ever had. Wayne and I have become close friends as well as literary partners and we’re seriously thinking about a second book.


And almost precisely three years after we first talked and emailed, the end result is nearly here. Resurrection Bay will be published on June 8, 2014 by Midnight Ink. Here’s the link to the book on Amazon.com, where you can pre-order it:




It’s a hell of a book, if I do say so myself. I hope you’ll take a look and I hope you enjoy it.


Want to know the really weird part? Wayne and I have never met. Never even been in the same room together…


More about that, and the whole collaboration process, later.

On The Passing of Elmore Leonard…


On August 20th, we lost one of our heroes.


Elmore Leonard—87-years-old and at work on his 46th novel—died after suffering a stroke on July 29th.


Marilyn Stasio eulogized him on the front page of the New York Times. Writers, critics, reviewers, readers, and academicians throughout the world have paid tribute to his exquisite style, his elaborate and quirky plotting, the incredibly memorable characters he created, and the sheer firepower of everything he wrote. He will be remembered as one of the truly great writers of his time.


I have a different memory of Elmore Leonard, though.


It’s a memory from twenty-two years ago, in August of 1991. My first novel had been out for just a little over a year and my second was on its way. When my agent sold that first book in late 1988, I decided I owed some karmic payback, so I contacted some folks at the Tennessee Department of Corrections. I had to jump through some hoops, but eventually I became a volunteer teacher at the old Tennessee State Prison, which was more commonly known as “The Walls.” The place resembled a medieval fortress. It closed in 1992 and is now used as a movie set.


For four years, for three hours on Monday night, inmate writers and I gathered in the schoolhouse and workshopped our writing. In the beginning, I had the misguided notion that I had something to teach them. The reality was I learned a hell of a lot more from them than they did from me.


One Monday night, I announced to the group that I was cancelling class the following week. A couple of the guys asked why…


“Elmore Leonard’s coming to town for a signing at Davis-Kidd,” I said. “And there’s no way I’m going to miss that.”


You’d have thought I told them Jesus Christ was climbing down from the cross. There was a ruckus like I’d never seen among this usually sedate and almost intellectual group of guys.


“Get him here!” one of the guys yelled. “We can’t go to him!”


Point taken. So in one of life’s what the hell moments, I called Elmore Leonard’s publisher the next morning and got someone in publicity to take my call.


“Elmore Leonard writes about criminals,” I said. “How’d he like to meet the real thing?”


Twenty-four hours later, my phone rang. Elmore Leonard would love to visit the Tennessee State Penitentiary…


That Monday afternoon, I picked Mr. Leonard up at his hotel and drove to the prison. I was amazed at how soft-spoken, even unassuming, he was. There was no trace of ego in him, or bravado, or the macho sensibilities you’d expect from a guy who wrote about hard-assed, bad-assed criminals and got rich and famous doing it. He wore jeans, a blue dress shirt and a jacket. Just a regular guy…


And the guys in the writing workshop loved him. He spent the whole afternoon talking to them about the writing life and the writing business. He asked them about their work and listened to their stories. He treated them with respect and dignity. For one short, sunny afternoon in August, they weren’t inmates anymore; they were writers, swapping war stories with one of their own.


Later, I drove him to the Davis-Kidd Bookstore, where a huge crowd attended his book signing. After that, a group of us all went to dinner. I got to sit next to him and while I can’t remember in any detail what we actually talked about (it was twenty-two years ago), I remember it as one of the most pleasant conversations I’ve ever had with another writer.


Later, he wrote me a handwritten letter thanking me for the day and signed it “Dutch.” That letter and a photo of us all at the penitentiary are framed in my home office. They’re two of my most treasured mementos.


So that’s how I remember Elmore Leonard. Yeah, he was one helluva writer. But he was also a really nice guy.So long, Dutch. We miss you.Elmore Leonard at TSPElmore Leonard Letter

On Writing (Or Creating Any Kind Of Art) When Life Gets In The Way


I’m sitting in my home office now, trying to write my first blog entry since February. That’s the problem with blogging; you’re supposed to do it regularly. I’m almost embarrassed that it’s taken me so long to write another post.


But let me describe my life to you right now. As I sit upstairs at my desk, I can hear—even with the door closed—the gigantic fans downstairs that are trying to dry the floors out in our house. About a month ago, the icemaker quit working on our old Amana 27 side-by-side. Days later—which was the first chance I got—I called the appliance repair people and the customer service guy told me icemaker repairs can get expensive. Could be as much as $400.00, he said.


Screw that, I thought. No way I’ve got that much extra cash lying around. I’ll run to the Kroger and buy a bag of ice. Which is precisely what I did, every few days for the next month.


Then I finally pulled it together to call the air-conditioning maintenance guys. Our system hasn’t been serviced in two years. As part of the service, the technician went into the crawlspace to examine the ductwork…


Which is where he found the corroded copper line that was spraying out about six feet in a pinhole leak. Quick, call the plumber, who came and repaired the leak, for $256.00, on top of the $150.00 for the HVAC inspection. While he was down there, he noticed a few feet over that the subflooring was all soaking wet. He did the measurements, plotted the huge wet spot, then came into the house, paced it off, and discovered that this huge wet spot of subflooring was centered… (okay, drum roll, wait for it).


Right under the refrigerator. The one with the busted icemaker…


“This one’s bad. I’d call your insurance company.”


Another phone call, another appointment, another guy crawling under the house and coming up with bad news.


“We can have a crew here Monday,” he said. “We’ll start by ripping up the floors, bringing in the air movers (I guess they call them “air movers” because it sounds more benign than incredibly huge industrial-strength fans that make you think you’re standing next to a Lufthansa 747 on takeoff), and the dehumidifiers. They’ll run for about three days around the clock. If the noise makes it impossible to sleep, you can turn ‘em off, but it’ll just take longer to dry it out. Then we’ll send in the flooring guys to lay the new floor, the carpenters to redo all the trim and mould, the painters to paint it, the cleaning crew to clean up, and then the punch-list guy to make sure it’s okay.”


“Then,” he added, “you can write the check.”


Our dining room has been converted into my wife’s home office, so the first thing was to take all that down (which really put everyone in a good mood) and then the kitchen had to be cleared out.


A day later, the wrecking crew came and ripped up the floors, then sprayed mildewcide over the wet subflooring, which set off my wife’s asthma. Then they fired up these air movers and went home to dinner.


Hours later, to get out of the house, my wife and I take a walk in the park. Twenty minutes into the walk, my cell phone goes off. It’s a text message from the ex-wife. Our nine-year-old is having heart palpitations, so they’re on their way to the emergency room…


Hours later—at two in the morning—I finally got home from the E.R., fixed a scotch and soda and took it to bed. I berated myself for not getting this blog entry done earlier, not to mention the new book proposal my agent liked. She wants a detailed synopsis and the first three chapters.


Oh, and there’s the book manuscript that my partner Wayne McDaniel and I turned into the agent four months ago. Haven’t heard a word on that one.


Then there are those three novels I just got the rights reversion on from St. Martin’s Press. Gotta get those scanned and cleaned up for republishing under the Spearhead Press imprint. Then there’s the retired homicide investigator who wants to partner up on a crime novel.


Oh, and there’s the local director whose feature script I offered to read.


On and on and on. So the question becomes: is life getting in the way of writing, or is it the other way around?


No doubt, to be continued…