Monday, August 28, 2023

A Week in Writing #471 - Disaster Averted

Hope everyone is staying safe, and, of course, writing.

Sorry I'm a day late with this, but I spent the better part of yesterday at the second of two Metallica concerts at Sofi Stadium. One of those days when you leave about 3 in the afternoon and don't get home until 1 am the next day.

Disaster nearly struck this week, at least for me. I was working on my current story and wanted to refer back to a previous book but then I couldn't find it. And I searched and searched. Spent the better part of two days, read that evenings, looking at every form of back up I made but I could never find it. I did open each book and put in a couple of search words that were relevant to the story, "Barstow", where some of the action takes place, "missing persons", which was why I was looking for it, etc, but I couldn't seem to find it. That is until today. I decided that my happy ending would make a good reason to go into more details.

I know that I have mentioned I'm writing a private deterective series but I don't think I've bored you yet with the details. And, I guess I worry what it will sound like to others if I write it down.

The main character of the story is a private detective, J.D. Barrister, who came out to Los Angeles from the University of Texas with the hopes of becoming a screenwriter. But those dreams faded overtime. In researching a private eye story idea, he interviewed Robert Parkinson, a small timer in the San Fernando Valley. Parkinson needed an assistant and J.D. needed a more steady income and thus he went to work for him.

Soon after arriving in Los Angeles, J.D. was pulled over speeding down Sunset Blvd. by a motorcycle cop, Debbie Estevez. While he couldn't talk his way out of the ticket, he did manage to ask her out for dinner and a romance bloomed. They were desitined for the altar when J.D. pulled back. He and Debbie may love each other but theirs was a combustible relationship and J.D. called it off. Since then, they had been off and on. They are sometimes friends with benefits but she is always his first call when he needs help with the police.

The first book I wrote was one called Simple Sins in which J.D. is hired to follow a cheating husband but uncovers, instead, industrial espionage. Not only is Debbie around but J.D. also makes a contact at the FBI, Special Agent Howard Strait, who also reoccurs in other stories. Prior to my blog, I had shopped this one around and, surprise surprise, found no takers. In the book, it is stealth technology that is being passed on to the Chinese through an Albanian consulate. This, I know, dates the book, and I started to rewrite it once but it got sort of out of hand.

The series follows J.D.'s case load but also his personal life as well and events in one book will have consequences in other installments. As an example, Debbie does eventually marry someone else, an attorney named Enrique Sepulveda. Their relationship is hurried along when it is discovered Debbie is pregnant.

J.D., after various relationships in his books, falls in love with Leanne Wilson, a former model turned opthamologist. A third generation Japanese American, Leanne's grandfather was a white American soldier who fell in love with a Japanese woman after World War II. Leanne had also been married once to an actor. J.D. got involved when she suspected, correctly, that her husband was having affairs on the set. But it was several years later, when J.D. was running an adultery sting operation, that they got back together. A woman would hire J.D. to test their husbands and women like Leanne would be put out as bait to see if the man bit. It was after one such sting that J.D. and Leanne discovered a mutual attraction and they've been together ever since. I'm leaving out several storylines, but you get the gist.

J.D. makes a career following suspected philandering spouses, finding the occassional runaway, and sometimes dealing with blackmailers. His clients have included former girlfriends, show business agents, wives and once, a disgraced former news anchor.

The latter takes place in Broken People, the book I have unsuccessfully been querying for what seems like a long time. Times are hard and J.D. takes to process serving to make ends meet. The last person on his list is a political blogger, whom ends up murdered after J.D. serves him. When the police investigation, of which Debbie is a part, arrests someone for the crime, J.D. is not convinced they have the right person. Neither is Stacy Michaels, a waitress at the club where J.D. found the blogger. A former news anchor from Cincinatti, Stacy has come to LA to start over. But she thinks cracking this case would put her back on television. With the aid of another political blogger, Tom Black, that happens. J.D. is reuniting, briefly, with Debbis as she convolesces at his apartment when she's shot in a shootout with her former partner on the case.

In Past Present, J.D. is hired by his former college sweetheart, Brianna Miller, to follow her husband, Dalton McLean. Dalton is the blacksheep son in a family of Dallas-based real estate developers who was sent to L.A. to start a branch there, but it was really just to get rid of him. Dalton is indeed having an affair with a younger woman, Katy 'Kat' Wiley, whom unbeknownst to most everyone, including Kat, is actually his daughter from a college affair. I won't go into too many details but there is a murder involved that J.D. helps to solve.

In Public and Private, J.D. is hired by agent Irv Stringer to retrieve some intimate photos stolen off the computer of an up and coming actress, Cassandra Leonard, for which she is being blackmailed. In searching for the blackmailer, J.D. develops a short-lived sexual relationship with the star, as well as sleeps with an already engaged Debbie. There is an unrelated murder of a drug dealer that ends up being related and the blackmailer himself ends up killed on Christmas morning. There are a lot of suspects, including Cassandra, and Stringer, who had flown out of L.A. about the time of the blackmailer's murder and had lied to the police about it. The story ends with a shootout on the Paramount lot.

In Getting Even,  Maddie Crosby, a minor character in the previous book, hires J.D. when she thinks she's been involved in a murder but the body is missing. J.D. is then hired by the father of the missing victim to find his son, an investigation that takes J.D. up to Mendocino. This is also the book wherein J.D. hires Leanne to work the sting and they become an item. Meanwhile, Debbie is both engaged to Enrique and hasn't given up totally on J.D., but a pregnancy has her and Enrique setting a date.

The Runaway was the book I thought I'd lost but was under my nose the whole time. In this, J.D. is hired to find a man that has gone missing. Debbie, who is now married and nine months pregnant, helps J.D. until he has to rush her to the hospital to give birth. Back on his case, he finds the man he's looking for dead in Barstow. As it turns out, he was working for a client of Enrique's who was taking in runaway girls and using them for his own sexual desires and those of his friends. As the police noose closes in, Enrique turns on Debbie, effectively ending their marriage.

Skylar, the book I have been working on off and on, is J.D.'s first case post Covid shutdown. He has been living with Leanne at her apartment in Brentwood and is now using his old one as his office. The first client is a next door neighbor who is being blackmailed into having sex with a former lover, a Russian drug dealer. While he's working on that, his future father-in-law, Ken Takahashi, comes to visit and gets J.D. involved in a tontine the grandfather has been involved with. Ken's visit prompts J.D. to ask Leanne to marry him. I haven't quite figured out how to wrap this one up. I sort of wrote myself into a corner that I have to redo. At the end of the book, spoiler alert, J.D. finds out that Debbie's baby is really his.

This takes us to the new story idea I've had and have been working on. This time, Brianna, who is also a lawyer, hires J.D. to look for a woman for a client, who ran away from home fifteen years prior. A big task that comes with a big paycheck if he can find her. In the meantime, J.D. has been married to Leanne and is just getting to know his now three-year-old daughter Cristina Rose. Because this invovled a missing person's report, I wanted to reference a similar situation from The Runaway, the book, which is when I thought I couldn't find it.

There are a couple of other books in the series, Paperback Detective, and Familiar Stranger, but I think you get the idea. Well, now that you're pretty caught up with my private eye stories, I'll fill you in with what else is going on with other projects.

Since we were at the Metallica show on Friday night, Julia Canon hosted and she and our colorist, Jen Moreno, worked on a back-to-school theme using characters from Powers Squared. While you can listen to it here, this might be a better one to wait for on YouTube, when it goes up on Wednesday.

I started but didn't get very far with a review of British Intelligence (1940), something to work on. There were two reviews up with weekend on Trophy Unlocked, Trevor's of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox on Saturday morning, and Paul's review of the recently released 

Well, I've got a newsletter to start, so I'll end it here. Keep writing and I'll see you back here next week.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

A Week in Writing #470 - Just Add Water and Stir

Hope everyone is staying safe, and, of course, writing.

This post comes during a very weird time in Los Angeles, where I live. Not only are we having a tropical storm roll through here for the first time in over 80 years, but we also felt the earth roll as we had an earthquake as well. As someone said on the news, L.A. is the country's disaster theme park. I know you want to know but except for some minor flooding in our garage, we're doing just fine. We sort of thought we had until winter before we had to worry about rain and the flooding but who knew we'd have rain in August?

Well, I know you're not reading this for the weather.

I'll save you some time, no new queries this week, no overt rejections either and very little writing, except for the idea I had for the comic book. I managed to do four drafts of a two part script, 5295 words. It started with one idea and ended a different way. I gave it to Paul to look at today. Even if it doesn't become a comic book, I still enjoyed writing it. It's been a long time, it seems, since anything I've written has been made into comic book form.

It wasn't my plan to spend the week on it but it started to roll and I just went with it.

Because of the pending storm and the possibility of a power outage, I didn't want to be working on a new review this week. So, instead, we watched the first episode of the MST3K season 13, a Kickstarter we backed in 2021 but for which, after paying for shipment on top of the Kickstarter, just received this week. One of the more botched Kickstarters I've been a part of and probably the last one I'll do for MST3K. The episode wasn't very funny and seemed sort of high budget cheap, if that makes sense. The original was made on a shoe string but it was way better than this version. The short we watched was funny, but that doesn't make up for everything else.

Because of the possible power outages, I also moved some of my normal Sunday morning social media stuff to Saturday night, including uploading our Friday On the Air with Powers Squared up to YouTube and scheduling posts for later in the week. This past Friday's podcast was mostly Paul talking about Metalocalypse and Dethklok, the fictional but still real band featured in the series. That goes up on Wednesday or you can listen to it here.

Even though I didn't write a new review this week, my review of  Nancy Drew. . . Trouble Shooter (1939) was Trophy Unlocked's Saturday morning review. We decided the review was our salute to the waning days of summer. The Wednesday Game Day review was Paul's for Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach – Ruin (DLC).

Just to give everyone a head's up, next weekend gets sort of discombobulated with Metallica coming to town for two shows, Friday and Sunday night. OAPS will be hosted by Julia Canon and will be another Artists Takeover, which I encourage everyone to support. It should be Live at 6 pm PT, so please watch. And, because the concert is also on Sunday night, this missive won't come out until Monday.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing and I'll see you next week.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

A Week in Writing #469 - Rethinking the Queries

Hope everyone is staying safe and, of course, writing.

Sometimes it's best to stop doing the same old thing and try something new. I've finally come to that conclusion with my query letters for Broken People. I'm not sure what's not clicking but obviously, after so many query emails and nothing to show for it, I'm going back to the drawing board on it. I'm trying to rewrite how the story begins. Maybe those sample pages will work when the ones I've been sending haven't so far.

I began that quest on Thursday night, my usual night for sending a query letter. In the meantime, I'll consider sending out another story. I was close with Past Present, maybe I'll revive that query letter and send it out. Give me a little time on that one though. I've also got Skylar to finish and a new story to think about. Too much, too much.

A big week for us with our podcast, On the Air with Powers Squared. David Petersen, the creator of Mouse Guard, was our guest for a little over two hours. If that seems long, I think we could have gone another hour but I thought two hours was long enough, not only for any listener/viewers but also for us. He was a great interview, very open and funny. You can still catch it on twitch and the audio is available as well. On Wednesday, the video will premiere on YouTube.

Busy week for me with reviews. My Barbie review was the Saturday Morning review on Trophy Unlocked and my review of Oppenheimer was published today. Sorry, it took us a little time to get to Barbenheimer, but life is complicated. We wanted to see Oppenheimer in 70 mm IMAX, but the theater we went to, the TCL Chinese's 70 mm projector failed. I used to really like the Chinese theater, but the last two times have been disappointing. We got free tickets, rather than a refund, but I'm not sure I can count on them to come through. Not sure what happened to the theater, but it's a shell of what it used to be.

I'm also finishing up another review for the blog, Find the Blackmailer, a definite B-movie from 1943.

I've begun working on the rewrite of the pilot script after receiving notes. And I actually had an idea for the book, a story involving one of the boys' friends, Steve. We've sorted of hinted he has a secret and now it gets revealed and it isn't good.

On the subject of Powers Squared, I've been making some updates to the website following some advice from a fellow and more successful creator, Russell Nohelty, whom I talked with at Comic-Con and followed up with post show. He pointed out that it is not apparent how to get a sample of the book, so I'm adding buttons on pages pointing how to do that, as well as where to buy and our weekly peek-of-the-week feature, which, while on the webpage, is sort of hidden under the More tab on the homepage.

I'm always open to making things better.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing and I'll see you again next week.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

A Week in Writing #468 - Starting to Feel Normal Again

Hope everyone is staying safe, and, of course, writing.

Well, two weeks out and I'm starting to feel normal again after Comic-Con. I hate the expression "getting back into the swing of things", though I'm pretty sure I've used it before. Let's just say I'm starting to feel normal again, good or bad, for what it's worth.

After writing last week that I hadn't worked on either Skylar or my new idea, I sat down and started working on a chapter for the new story. It's a bit of a fantasy chapter, so I don't think it will make it whole into the finished work but it was an idea I had to write down nonetheless. I worked on it off and on throughout the week and ended up writing about 3200 words. I may do another round of cleaning it up before getting back to Skylar, which I know I need to finish.

I also worked on the latest edition of The Hound Dogs' Howl and writing a piece on the M-Twins from the Marvel universe. Again, it's only available to enrollees at San Romero Community College, which you are free to enroll in.

I'll admit I was getting frustrated with the slow pace of pages for Powers Squared, but our artist turned in 7 and our colorist 8 this week, so I'm feeling a little better about things.

I've been reading Mouse Guard by David Petersen, as he will be our guest this Friday on our podcast, On the Air with Powers Squard on and later on YouTube. If you've never watched or listened to the podcast before, this might be one you don't want to miss.

Rounding out the updates on Powers Squared, I got feedback on the script and there is a lot to be done to make it better. Something else I want to look at this coming week.

For Trophy Unlocked, I'm currently working on a review for Blondie (1938). We haven't decided yet who will be writing it but we have a review to do for Barbie. Next weekend, we're finally going to see Oppenheimer so we want to do our own version of Barbenheimer when we do. Comic-Con sort of got us off as far as seeing movies when they first come out. I wanted to see Oppenheimer in IMAX and it wasn't until next weekend that opportunities and times worked out.

That may explain why my review of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One didn't appear on the blog until Saturday morning. Sunday saw Trevor's review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, a film we managed to see close to it's original release on Friday afternoon. The first review last week was also Trevor's Game Day review of Tron: Identity for the PC.

To round things out, I did manage a new query this week. I'm down to four "active" queries, which may lead me to redo the synopsis on the query letter and maybe even rewrite the start of the book to bring the action more to the forefront.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing and I'll see you next week.