August 1, 2013



Murder on the High Seas – page 1

August 1, 2013

Murder on the High Seas - page 1

Murder on the High Seas

The Next Big Thing

December 19, 2012

Last week I was tagged by Travis Richardson, (whose novella  Lost in Clover was recently published),  to participate in The Next Big Thing; where writers talk about their upcoming projects.

Without further adieu—

What is the working title of your book (or current project?)

The title has been recently changed to Detective Rules.  Throughout the book, the lead character, Guy Graff recites rules he learned while attending detective school.  Rules such as, Detective Rule #3:  You can lose a sock when doing laundry but don’t lose the guy stalking your client.  For most of this book’s incarnation it was called Shopping Can Be Deadly but I decided didn’t properly portray what the book is about.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book’s genesis started in a letter I was writing to girl I was dating at that time.  Yes, there was a time when people actually wrote letters.  That scene in the letter, where the woman enters Guy’s P.I. office and tells him why she wants to hire him is now gone.  But the character was created then and I felt secure in my writing style.  Detective Rules is my ode to all the detective/P.I. novels I’ve read growing up.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s not a hard-boiled detective story and it’s not as light as a cozy so I call it something in between: soft-boiled or a mystery/comedy.  

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Guy Graff is twenty-six years old but he looks like he’s eighteen and gets called “kid” a lot.  Back in the day I would have said Michael J. Fox could play Guy Graff but today, somebody like Daniel Radcliff.  Kim, one of his clients and eventual love interest: Jennifer Lawrence or Amanda Seyfried.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

It’s Guy Graff’s first ever P.I. case and his clients are being killed while they shop in Beverly Hills – and worst yet; before they pay him.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

It’s always been my dream to go the traditional route; find an agent and have it published by a big publisher.  After this final polish that’s the direction I’ll be going.  However if I can’t find an agent or publisher I will definitely consider self-publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your screenplay?

 The first draft took around two years.  Much of that first draft was written during some UCLA workshops and writers’ groups.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 It’s similar in tone to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.  It’s also like Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole’s series if he went with more humor and less seriousness.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My love of mysteries instilled into me by my Mother.  I looked at the detective novel and said to myself, how would your write it with your voice and hence; Detective Rules.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

 I’ve mentioned it has humor but the story is also about finding friendship, trusting and pre-judging people and of course; the need to be paid your retainer upfront.

That’s all from me.  Next Wednesday Kwei Quartey – author of Wife of the Gods and Children of the Street will be answering questions about his Next Big Thing.

When do I know when I’m finished?

April 12, 2012

You’ve worked on your script/novel for months or even years with dozens of rewrites.  You’ve had all the time in the world to complete it.  You want this baby of yours to be perfect; rejection proof, before sending it out into the judgmental world of agents, managers, production companies, publishers.

So when do I know I’m truly finished ?

Have you completed this screenplay/manuscript checklist?

  • Did you read your script/novel straight through at one sitting?
  • Did you specifically look for emotional turning points, three act structure, and clear plot points.  Are they working?  Are they strong?  Contain big emotional moments?  Does the story slow down at any point?
  • Did your characters have arcs, uniqueness and consistency?
  • Did you read your dialogue out loud?  Is it on-the-nose dialogue or more complex by using subtext?  If it’s a script, have you had a reading of it with actors or friends?
  • Is your prose clear and clean and in tone with the story?  If it’s a script, are the action/description lines short but powerful and add great visuals?
  • Do your scenes or chapters flow?  Does each one move the story forward?  Can some be cut or combined?  Is there complexity to them?
  • If it’s a screenplay, can you make it more cinematic, or add set-up/payoffs or interesting transitions?
  • If you feel you’ve completed all the above steps, you’ve earned the right to put it in a drawer for a day or two.  After a short time away, re-read it again.  Still working for you?  Good.
  • Do your first polish draft.  Look at each word and each sentence. Are there misspellings or wrong punctuation? Did you vary your word choices? Have you replaced the “to be” verbs with more powerful action verbs?  Is the script/manuscript in the correct format?

After all that, if you feel like you want to tweak it more –   STOP!!!  DON’T MOVE!   TAKE YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD!

Writers that still want to fiddle with it, tell me: “I think I’m almost there but I still have to find that perfect ending” OR “I just have to nail a killer opening and then I’m done” OR “If I just punch up my dialogue a little more, then it’s ready.”

You are afraid to finish.  You’ve worked on this dream project and now it will be judged.  It will be out of your hands and you are about to find out if someone else likes it.  You are staring in the face of rejection. That’s scary. But if you’ve followed the above checklist it is almost ready.

What do you mean, “almost”?  There’s more?  But I thought you said I was done.  

You are, almost.

Click on Part Two to see Part Two.

Part Two of WHEN DO I KNOW WHEN I’M FINISHED will delve into getting feedback and from whom before you finally send it out.


January 17, 2012


Try this: As an experiment, copy your script into a new document but cut off the first 5 or 10 or 20 pages.  Read your new 30 pages.  Does it start with your hero in action?  Is your script zipping along?  Were those first 20 pages mainly backstory?  Don’t worry, you can place any missing vital information later.  Don’t start explaining who this person is.  Set him in action then slowly reveal him.


FIRST TWO PAGES.  Man wakes up.  Man kisses his wife.  Man drives to work.  Man goes into an office building.  Man goes up elevator.  Man on rooftop takes out a rifle.  Man starts shooting.


FIRST PAGE:  Man opens a rooftop door.  Man goes to the ledge.  Man takes out a rifle.  Man starts shooting.

Which grips you?  Which one will keep the reader/producer/agent, who only read the first 20 pages, going?

It always goes back to: SHOW DON’T TELL.

Fall in love with writing, not with what you’ve written. ReWriteDr Tip:

November 30, 2011

In the November Mystery Writers of America newsletter, author Reed Farrel Coleman mentions several mantras writers can use when they get tense about ReWriting.  One especially resonated with me:

Fall in love with writing, not with what you’ve written.

Writing is about rewriting.  That’s the learning process.  That’s the time to take the script/manuscript apart, see what’s working and what’s not and then put it back together.  And then do it all over again and again.  Be willing to cut out sections that don’t work, whether it’s an entire act or one sentence.  Writers fear that if they make changes they won’t know any other way to make it better.  It’s the fear of the unknown which we all experience.  But I say you can make it better. I know this for a fact.  Even though at the time you don’t see how it could be different you can do it.  If you generated the first idea you can certainly create a superior idea.  Give it time but it’s there in your head, you just haven’t tapped into it yet.  That’s what your love affair with writing is all about: Being willing to give up what you have written but have faith you will find a better way to express it.    

It’s all about story, story, story… ReWriteDr tidbit.

November 11, 2011


My thoughts on Paranormal 3 –

I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about Paranormal 3 as I had not seen the first two.  Here’s what I think: Paranormal 3 is equivalent to paying money and entering a Fun House where ‘ghosts’ can pop out and scare you.  That’s all.  That’s fun and entertaining but in Paranormal 3 there is no story.   Yes, I experienced sympathy for the little girl who is taunted by the ghosts, but I always feel sorry for little girls when something bad happens to them. The story didn’t convince me to.  I watched the family move about the house doing their chores.  But I didn’t empathize with them.  I’m not bashing  Paranormal 3, audiences love these movies.  It’s an enjoyable scare.  They are what they are.  For some, that’s enough.  However when I sit in the dark, I want to be invested in a good story, feel for the characters, not wait for the next scary face to fill the screen.  Unlike the person next to me who jumped out of his seat sending popcorn flying.  Oh, free popcorn.  I guess there are some benefits.