New and Innovative

I’ve mentioned before that I get requests to do written interviews. This usually comes from blogs and web sites focused on indie authors–often sites hawking something themselves. They send me a list of questions that I do my best to answer in thoughtful, honest and even funny ways.

Recently as part of a long list of questions from a web site, they asked: What are some things that haven’t been done in the mystery genre that you hope to introduce through your books?

What an interesting question. Things that haven’t been done in the mystery genre? What the hell would that be? How about divulge who did it at the beginning? Have the good guy commit the crime? Have no mystery at all? It was such an interesting question that I could not stop thinking about it. Then it occurred to me; why would that even be important?

Why screw around with something that works? It’s our addiction to new, innovative—different. As consumers, we want the latest thing there is; so that must mean as readers, we want something different, right? I stumbled across an article where some people (none known to me) were predicting the future trend in book genres; they mentioned—Urban Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Utopian stories, and Cyberpunk. Maybe this is new and innovative; but I write mysteries—I don’t think I’m going to end up on anyone’s trend list.

Many of my books follow a rather predictable path. An introduction, character development, a crime is committed (usually murder), investigation, a few twists, discovery of the truth and the conclusion; which must address all of the details that have not been fully explained before. Hey, it is a mystery novel –what were you expecting.

I’ve seen way too many movies that just end. Did they run out of money and this was all they could finish? Or maybe that is being creative. In the middle of a scene the movie just ends. What happened to the characters in the movie—how did it really end. I definitely would not want to read a mystery book that ended before the mystery was solved—or is that something new; let the reader solve the mystery however they want! I would think most readers would not be pleased with an abrupt ending without knowing who did what.

My answer to the question from the web site was: Wow, I have no idea. If I knew I might not tell you—something that hasn’t been done in a mystery after a billion mystery books—I’m going to think about that.

So, now I’ve thought about it, and I’m going to stick to the classic format of mystery books. For innovation I will work on better, more in-depth characters, improved realistic dialogue, unique settings and more surprises in each book. Nothing really different than a thousand other mystery books, but do it better.

This brings me to a confession of sorts. The Hightower series was an attempt to break my pattern. Hightower is someone who, mostly by accident, has discovered how to extend life. The book starts in 2020 and at that time Hightower is 120 but still looks as if he is in his 50s. The murders that are at the heart of the story took place in the 1930s and Hightower knows (and the reader knows) who committed the crime. This book will fit into several genres including mystery; but it’s different. So maybe I do want to write something innovative. Now for the confession part—I’ve hit a brick wall. Yep, not sure what to do next. Approaching the half-way point in the book and not sure where to take the story. I’ve been here before.

That time it was Four Corners War. I got stuck in 2016 and it took three years to get back to the book and finish it. During that time, I wrote five other books—but FCW just laid there; waiting for inspiration. When I returned, it all came to me how I wanted the story to go and quickly finished the book. It had never left my mind. It will be published Sept 3rd, 2019.

Pre Order Now!

My cure for my Hightower blues will be the 4th Vincent Malone book, Durango Two Step. While Hightower rests I will complete DTS. In the next few weeks I will give you a peek at the first few chapters of DTS. This will be Vincent’s most challenging adventure, putting all of his new life at risk.

What’s in a Name?

What’s In A Title?

Currently writing the first Hightower series book. Working title has been A Doctor Hightower Novel: The Case of the False Prophet. Maybe as a consequence of the writing going slower than I would like I’ve decided the series name and the title of the book are wrong. Yes, this may be akin to shuffling the chairs on the Titanic—but I’m going with a different name. For the series it will now be Hightower Chronicles and this first book will be False Miracle.

Could this possible matter at all? Okay, maybe this is just a smoke screen to hide the current delay in progress, but my honest answer is yes, it does matter. The second Vincent Malone novel was going to be about artists and the art business in Santa Fe. I envisioned some unique or possibly even odd characters populating this story of greed, lust and murder. I was looking for a clever title and decided on Blue Flower Red Thorns. Okay, nice words; but what the hell does it mean. Maybe it is allegorical referencing beauty and pain. Maybe it has no meaning and was designed to confuse and irate readers? Of course, that would be very stupid thing to do. Or would it?

The name could be a reference to a Shrek movie where the donkey is sent to search for a blue flower with red thorns—which he bemoans would be easier if he was not color-blind. Searching for a healing flower while you cannot see the difference does sound like something with lots of hidden meanings. Maybe it relates to the beauty of the great art produced by less than perfect people. The characters were seeking beauty but not seeing the ugliness in their midst. Could be.

Another possibility is from the Urban Dictionary: “a way of saying you don’t care about someone else’s current situation, or what they are trying to do, because you have shit of your own to take care of.”

That attitude would definitely fit the story line of some very egotistical self-absorbed characters. So there is the answer– it is a vague reference to something most people do not know that reflects the overall attitudes of several of the main characters.

The metaphor with the flower and contrasting thorn (no matter the color) fits the contrast between the beauty created by a talented artist and the challenge of a troubled person who is creating that art.

Now the question is; was that a good idea to name the book something that is at best confusing? I think the answer is no. If I had it to do over again I would choose something else. But I’m not changing the title—it is what it is. While I think my logic about the title had merit it was just to obscure to have general meaning to most people. I could have made the title Elephants and Rats and it would have meant as much to most.

I thought Blue Flower Red Thorns had some of the most interesting characters I have written about. Some of this inspiration came from my short-lived desire to be an artist. When I was young my ambition was to be an artist. I was talented but not exceptionally so—as a result I could have the dream, but the reality stayed far away. But my experience in the art world introduced me to people who more often than not saw the world through a different lens. The main character in BFRT is Ilse De Vries, one of the most talented contemporary artists in the world—all at an incredibly young age. She swoops into Santa Fe and creates a storm of not only artist expression but mayhem.

In ways maybe not obvious, all of the characters in Blue Flower Red Thorns referenced the contradiction in the title; sometimes nice, sometimes very nasty. Much like the art world in general.


Pre-Order Now!

The latest (and maybe last) Pacheco & Chino book, Four Corners War, is now available for preorder on Amazon. This book is definitely inspired by my personal experiences in Farmington, New Mexico. Much of my working career as a financial adviser was related to business acquisitions. One such experience in Farmington was especially memorable, and much of what I saw many years ago is the basis for FCW—although in the book it is enhanced to make it more interesting. Plus, a large portion of the story is just made up out-of-whole-cloth. It was great fun to write because of that past connection—but this book took forever; for various reasons. I enjoyed writing FCW but am also glad that it is done.

Lies and True Lies

Where do story ideas come from? My first book, The Bootlegger’s Legacy, story idea was to have a couple of “normal” guys try to make a drug deal to help them with their financial problems. It was going to be about how they managed to screw everything up—since they were not criminals, just people with money problems looking for an out. As much as anything, I think at the beginning I saw the book as a comedy with some stupid crooks making all kinds of lethal mistakes. This idea came from my own experience in Oklahoma City in the 1980s.

This was a difficult time for most people in Oklahoma with a sudden and dramatic collapse of the oil industry. This was especially true for small business owners. Of course, with the local economy in the toilet, business was bad for most everyone. But there was an ugly ripple effect related to banks. All of the local banks were heavily involved in the oil industry, and when that industry tumbled, it brought down banks. The bank failures led to small business loans being called by the FDIC. Even a healthy business usually cannot pay-off a loan immediately that was not expected to be due. And, of course, there was no way to get another bank loan because the whole banking industry was on the ropes.

One such business was owned by a friend of mine and he sought my advice. As you may or may not know my background is financial—CPA and financial consultant. I helped him analyze his situation and basically told him there was no hope. Not what he wanted to hear. He had to come up with a boat load of cash or he faced bankruptcy. This actually is the first part of The Bootlegger’s Legacy story.

I did not know it at the time, but heard later, that he and another fellow developed a scheme to make a drug deal with some people from Mexico to solve their money woes. Fortunately, for my friend, his plans fell through. He never executed his absurd idea—where more than likely he would have been killed. He brought a partner into his business who had some cash and they were able to refinance the debt with an out-of-state bank. As the economy recovered his business grew and thrived.

So the actual story I based my idea on was basically boring. Nothing much happened and with a little luck the business owner survived. He never had a wild, dangerous adventure in Mexico, never got shot, never did much of anything except refinance his debt. Not exactly a book anyone would read.

But from that kernel of an idea came an adventure involving a bootlegger, a vast hidden fortune, a gorgeous mistress, divorce, romance, new life paths, family mysteries solved, great wealth and new loves.

Why did the story change? Because the actual story was not very interesting; the original idea was okay but the real story was just plain boring. So, I did what writers do; I made up a bunch of stuff. Hopefully fun, interesting, exciting stuff—a story you would want to read. Much of the story I made up as I wrote. Obviously this is not the best way to write, but it seems to work for me. I just get started and it seems to take on its own life, going from one thing to the next based on what seems right in the world I have created.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy became an entirely different story than what I thought at the beginning. In retrospect that was very good.

My next book, Dog Gone Lies, was a direct result of The Bootlegger’s Legacy. There was a small part in that book for a local sheriff who helped the TBL guys while they were in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Sheriff Ray Pacheco. I liked this character a lot and decided I wanted to know more about him—so I wrote a book where he was the main character. In a way TBL and the Pacheco & Chino books are a result of a bad idea a friend had on how to solve his financial problems that he never really attempted. Ideas for books come from all sorts of things– even out of thin air or some past experience.

The third Pacheco & Chino book, Four Corners War, will be available for pre-order July 1st. This story also was due to one of my own experiences. While not a true story by any means, many of the events in FCW did actually happen; but none of the murders. Maybe that is what novels are—real life stories exaggerated and contorted to make them more interesting to read. After all; it is fiction.