We hope to see you there!
Monday, February 28, 2011
We hope to see you there!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Ask twenty different authors what they think about the relative importance of research for a novel, and you’ll get twenty different opinions. On one side of the scale, some will say it’s irrelevant and that people read for good writing, not good research, and that water-tight fact-finding will never overcome bad prose.
I’m on the other side of the scale. Yes, the writing comes first, but nailing the details only adds to the effect. There is no downside. Not bothering to conduct rudimentary research into the subject matter, in my mind, is insulting to the reader. It smacks of laziness, especially if the reader has some grasp of the subject. In fact, as a reader myself I can only get so far in a book if the information blatantly conflicts with the facts that I know. I’m not asking anyone to be an expert, but at least show me you can find Wikipedia. Or buy a Guns and Ammo magazine. I’ll forgive almost anything if the author shows me he tried.
Because of this, I’m rabid about research. The knowledge base I gained from my previous career is absolutely essential as a starting point, but I don’t have an encyclopedic memory. Suffice it to say, I have to do an enormous amount of fact checking, from something as minute as how long a certain flight would take and the time-zones involved to whether a particular weapon fires from the open-bolt position. Invariably, whenever I try to wing it based on my memory and experiences alone, I find out I’m wrong. I’ve learned to fact-check just about everything. Luckily, if I can’t find the answer on my own, odds are very good that I know someone who can.
There is a trap with this, and I’ve fallen into it more times than I can count, and that is you want to show off the research you’ve done, babbling on about interesting but irrelevant tidbits, with the plot suffering as a result. I’ve just come to understand that out of all the research I do, only about two percent will make it into the book. Especially when talking about locations.
I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to real-world settings, and I research them relentlessly. I’ve traveled all over the world, which is a good thing when I want to describe a setting, but make no mistake; I have to really study locations to get them right. For example, I’ve been to both Central and South America, but I have never been to Guatemala or Belize, major settings in One Rough Man. I had to research both forever, and ultimately didn’t use 99% of what I found. In the end I’m sure that someone who’s actually spent some time there will find flaws in my descriptions. I’m okay with that, because I gave it my best shot.
When I have the ability to do first-hand research, I do so. The Atlanta airport scene is a pretty good example of that. Basically, Jennifer and Pike get stopped at customs and have to break out of the secondary interrogation facility. I tried to write how they would evade capture, and escape what’s become one of the most secure areas since 9/11, using my own recollection of the airport. When I was done, I realized that I really didn’t know enough about the security of the airport, and that the way I had written it was a little hokey. I have been through that airport probably 500 times, but I’d never looked at the security from an evasion standpoint. One thing I was convinced of, though, was they weren’t going to escape by using normal passenger corridors. I called up some pilot friends of mine and proposed a simple question: how can I get out of the Atlanta airport without going the usual passenger route? They gave me the breakdown of what crew members do, to include locations of employee lounges and employee bus routes. From there, I simply flew to the airport and retraced Pike and Jennifer’s steps from customs, noting the security in place such as cameras, alarms, and checkpoints. After casing the place it was pretty easy to figure out how they could do it.
Since I’m not independently wealthy, I couldn’t afford to do what I did with the Atlanta scene for the scenes in Bosnia, Oslo, or Guatemala. In those cases, I had to rely on the internet, my memory and friends with specialized knowledge. There’s a military phrase called Open Source Intelligence, which basically means, “read the paper and see what you can find out”. In today’s times, that means the internet, and it’s amazing what’s out there, from airport databases and flikr, to Google Earth and 360cities. Surprisingly, my favorite source is a blog from backpacking college students. Those folks go everywhere, and talk about everything from security at border crossings to the best way to get a taxi, complete with pictures. Suffice to say, just about anything can be found if one looks hard enough.
For instance, I’ve been inside the White House situation room – once – but I’m certainly not well versed on the White House floor plan, something I needed to be if Kurt was going to keep seeing the president. Obviously, getting in and stomping around the president’s personal space was problematic. Luckily, there’s an entire website dedicated to the history of the White House, complete with the floor plan through the years and photos.
I try to do that with any scene I write, but I’ll be honest, if I need something, I’ll create it. For instance, the Four Courts pub where Pike is ambushed is a real location in Clarendon, Virginia. The streets around it are accurate, as are the Metro stops to get there. I cased that area as well, trying to figure out how I would ambush Pike (and get a Guinness at the pub). I planned the ambush realistically, but added an alley to the left of the pub. It doesn’t exist in real life, but it does in my book. I know that sounds hypocritical, but I did this because in the end the writing does come first. The alley was critical to the story.
I’ll fake things for reasons other than the story as well. Writers without my background can guess how widget X works, and if they get it right everyone wonders how they got the information. My problem is the opposite: I do know how things work, and most of that knowledge is classified, so I have to spend a lot of time tempering what I know when I write, even if it seems mundane. For instance, I’m currently working on a scene for book two where terrorists attack an Army Ammunition Supply Point. I traveled to and studied the ASP, then simply wrote how I would hit it to get to the ammunition inside. After I was done, I read it and thought, “What the hell are you doing? You’ve just written a blueprint on how to attack a U.S. Federal facility!” My insider knowledge, coupled with my tactical skill set, had made it too real. I had to go back and throw in some red herrings. I know I’ll get dinged on that by someone with the same knowledge as me, saying, “That would never work,” but that’s the point.
“Brad Taylor has created a feisty, devil-may-care hero in Pike Logan, a man forced to race not only time, but his own shadowy instincts. A coiling plot, crisp writing, and constant braids of suspense make One Rough Man one exciting debut.”—Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author
In the end, I fall on the “research” bandwagon, although I realize there’s no way I’m going to be perfect. Mistakes will happen, no matter how much research I do, and I want to kick myself when that occurs, but it’s just the way of writing. Pike steals a Chevy Cutlass in Guatemala City to escape, and after all of the research on the city itself, I’m told by an advanced copy reader – after I’d blessed the final manuscript – that Chevrolet didn’t make the Cutlass. Oldsmobile did.
Mistakes like that don’t make me throw my hands up at the futility of it all, because I owe it to the reader. My cut-line on real versus make-believe is the story itself. If you make something up for the purposes of the plot, knowing it’s wrong, and it makes the story stronger, then you’ve enhanced the enjoyment of the reader. On the other hand, using the story as an excuse for a lack of research is really just a shortcut – and the reader will know it. Maybe not all readers will care, but even if only one does, you’ve failed.
Brad was born on Okinawa, Japan, but grew up on 40-acres in rural Texas. Graduating from the University of Texas, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry. Brad served for more than 21 years, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. During that time he held numerous Infantry and Special Forces positions, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta where he commanded multiple troops and a squadron. He has conducted operations in support of US national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations.
His final assignment was as the Assistant Professor of Military Science at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. He holds a Master’s of Science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, with a concentration in Irregular Warfare. When not writing, he serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats for various agencies. He lives in Charleston, SC with his wife and two daughters.
Visit his website at www.bradtaylorbooks.com
Monday, February 21, 2011
One True Sentence is my fourth novel featuring 20th Century crime novelist/ screenwriter Hector Lassiter.
The question I’m often confronted with is, “Why write about a writer?”
A number of factors drove my decision to use a mystery or crime author to center a series of crime novels. Partly, I wagered that I could pump up the language and dialogue a couple of extra notches if my central guy was a man who makes his living with words.
But when a storyteller is telling you the story? Then all bets are off. A writer will trump fact for effect, nearly every time. He’ll possibly bend events in tricky ways to tell a richer story. In short, it seemed to me that a particularly gifted storyteller would, perhaps paradoxically, be the most untrustworthy of narrators.
Couple that possibility with the reputation that Hector Lassiter has earned in his universe for using his life as fodder for his fiction (Hector is known as “The man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives”), and there’s some built-in latitude to let the story go a good bit deeper than the average mystery. As the years pile up across the books, at some point, Hector ceases to hide behind fictive personas, and in fact uses himself as his own character.
I wish I could claim that notion was original to me. Back in the early 1990s, I took a stab at writing a series using a then-contemporary reporter turned crime novelist (if the books eventually see print, enough years have now passed that they’ll read like historicals). That as-yet unpublished series was a kind of forerunner for the Hector Lassiter novels, I see now.
But sometime after writing several of those manuscripts about that other guy, I began to steep myself in the sublime works of novelist James Sallis.
Because of James Sallis’ Griffin series, I became enthralled with the notion of taking my original concept of crime novelist as hero and pushing it backward in time. Hector Lassiter became for me, a writer who would begin as an aspiring literary author, then move through all those “–isms” that shaped 20th century literature, eventually resulting in postmodernism and meta fiction.
Through Hector’s journey as a writer, it is my plan to explore 20th Century pop culture as a driver of history.
In a dizzying development, I’ll be appearing at Poisoned Pen with James Sallis this Tuesday evening — a surreal and humbling experience for me and one I’m grateful to Mr. Sallis and Poisoned Pen for making possible. I hope you’ll join us.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Business as usual for two local bookstores after Borders' bankruptcy
Last Updated: 3 hours and 10 minutes ago
- By: Alex Ferri, ABC15.com
Rosckowff said he was curious to see what kind of impact Borders will have on independent bookstores like his own. Peters said the bankruptcy of such a large company could make waves throughout the entire publishing industry.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
February 28 - 7pmsigns Gideon's Sword ($26.99 Grand Central) the first book in his new Gideon Crew series. Douglas Preston co-authored numerous novels with Lincoln Child, most notably those featuring eccentric FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast. Their first novel, Relic, was made into a movie by Paramount Pictures. Douglas Preston has written for The New Yorker, The Smithsonian Magazine, Harper’s, National Geographic and The Atlantic Monthy.
March 1 – 7pmRhys Bowen signs Bless the Bride (Minotaur $24.99)featuring 19th century Irish heroine Molly Murphy.Rhys was born in Bath, England, of a Welsh/English family, and educated at London University. She worked for the BBC in London, as an announcer then drama studio manager. She sang in folk clubs with luminaries like Simon and Garfunkel and Al Stewart, and also started writing her own radio and TV plays. She’s won numerous major awards for her historical novels as well as her mysteries.
March 2 – 7pmsigns Devil's Food Cake Murder (Kensington $24) the latest installment in her series featuring Hannah Swensen.While pursuing her writing career, Joanne has worked as: a public school teacher, a psychologist, a musician, a private detective's assistant, a corporate, legal, and pharmaceutical secretary, a short order cook, a florist's assistant, a caterer and party planner, a computer consultant on a now-defunct operating system, a production assistant on a TV quiz show, half of a screenwriting team with her husband, and a mother, wife, and homemaker.
March 3 - 7pmsigns Sex, Lies, and Soybeans ($13.95),A graduate from MIT with a degree in Engineering, Rick was VP of several large corporations before venturing into writing. His timely novel is not only a fast-paced thriller but works though some possible realities of becoming dependent on genetically egineered food.
March 5 – 5pmSigns Night Vision (Putnam $25.95). Note 5 pm time to allow baseball fans to come after spring training games. As "one of the hottest writers in America" (Booklist) Randy continues to draw on his life experience as a light-tackle fishing guide at Tarpon Bay Marina, Sanibel Island for 13-years. He’s also written for Outside magazine, dog sledded in Alaska and brought refugees from Cuba.
March 7 – 7pmThe son of Michael Palmer signs Delirious (Kensington $25), a debut crime fiction novel.
Signs A Heartbeat Away (St Martins $27.99) and introduces his son Daniel who makes his debut. He trained in internal medicine at Boston City and Massachusetts General Hospitals, spent twenty years as a full-time practitioner of internal and emergency medicine, and is now an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s physician health program. His books have been translated into thirty-five languages
March 8 – 7pmSigns The Jungle (Putnam $27.95), a new adventure in the Oregon Files series. Note: the event is free and everyone is welcome, but only copies of The Jungle bought at The Poisoned Pen will be signed.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Dave Zeltserman's most commercial book to date.
order a signed copy of Outsourced by clicking here.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
The Orchid Affair, the eighth installment of the Pink Carnation series, heralds the return to Napoleonic France for the first time since The Secret History of The Pink Carnation. Recent Selwick spy school graduate Laura Grey has been assigned to Paris by the Pink Carnation where she will serve as governess to the two children of Andre Jaouen, Bonaparte’s minister of police. Jouen, cold and driven, works with the dastardly inspector Gaston Delaroche, whose passion for torture is second only to his desire to thwart the restoration of royal blood to the throne. At first, Grey seems to be the typical Regency governess, eminently worthy of her bland name. However, as we begin to catch glimpses of the past and character buried deep beneath their respective rôles, neither Jaouen nor Grey are at all what they appear. Soon, they are forced to examine their loyalties and their futures when they must flee France, traveling the countryside with a troupe of actors. In Orchid, Willig also returns to the parallel contemporary story of Eloise Kelly, who is researching her doctoral thesis on British spies during the Napoleonic Wars, and her relationship with Colin Selwick, descendant of the Purple Gentian, which readers may have missed in The Mischief of the Mistletoe. We find Eloise and Colin visiting Paris, not for a romantic getaway but as a result of having been summoned by Colin’s mother — with perhaps a side of research for Eloise. Colin’s complex family relationships put Eloise’s own to test . . . but how could anything go too far wrong in the City of Love?
An anything but boring past combined with a quick wit and spine of steel make Grey one of Willig’s strongest heroines, and perhaps the most relatable. She and Jaouen seamlessly blend the maturity of their age — they are both in their thirties, older than Willig’s previous protagonists — and situation with the larger than life adventures they embark upon. The depth of these characters as well as Willig’s brilliant description of a benumbed yet threatening post-terror Paris make The Orchid Affair lend exceptional realism to a thoroughly entertaining read.
Willig doesn’t fail to stun with each installment, and continues to perfect her craft with intricate plotting, wonderful characters, and volumes of research. I can’t wait to meet more of the Carnation “family” — she can’t write fast enough for me — but, I hope someday we’ll have the opportunity to follow up with characters from earlier in series (in more than just cameo appearances). Of course, loyal Willig readers may recognize this request as what it is: a thinly veiled plea for more Lord Vaughn.
If you enjoy Lauren Willig, I also recommend: Tasha Alexander, Deanna Reybourn
Order a signed, first-edition copy of THE ORCHID AFFIAR from The Poisoned Pen HERE.
Lauren will be signing at The Poisoned Pen on February 10th, 2011. The event will be webcast live and available for replay at www.livestream.com/poisonedpenauthorevent along with many others. The upcoming webcast schedule for the next couple of months:
2/13 Ben Bova, 2/15 David Rosenfelt, 2/22 Craig McDonald w/ Jim Sallis, 2/24 Noah Boyd and Brad Taylor, 2/28 Douglas Preston, 3/1 Rhys Bowen, 3/7 Daniel and Michael Palmer, 3/15 Keith Thomson and Lisa Gardner, 3/21 Jacqueline Winspear, 3/22 Ian Rankin, 3/30 Camilla Lackburg
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
RT BOOK REVIEWS GIVES ONE TRUE SENTENCE 4 STARS
The March edition of RT BOOK REVIEWS carries a four-star review for ONE TRUE SENTENCE (coming February 15 from Minotaur Books).
Reviewer Michelle Wiener describes the novel as "one heck of a ride through 1924 Paris. The mystery follows a classic trajectory, with enough red herrings and curveballs to make readers who guess at the culprit early on feel exceptionally smart." The entire review can be read HERE.
Also, The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona has released its staff picks for February. ONE TRUE SENTENCE is a four-staffer choiceamong booksellers at that fine establishment.
I'll be appearing at The Poisoned Pen on Feb. 22 with the great James Sallis (pictured left). More on that event HERE.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
|Books can obviously hold their own...|
Just today we spoke with our rep concerning the sale of ebooks and it looks like we'll be offering them in the next couple months...hopefully sooner.
Stay tuned for details.