Five short stories

Five short stories

If you’re reading this on the web, it probably means that I
have five short stories out there somewhere, which means
I’m doing something right. That warrants a web site,
dontcha think? After all, all writers, even the gent who
snubbed Oprah, thrive on blatant self promotion.

And that’s really what these clever little blurbs I’m calling
a journal are about. Blatant self-promotion.

“So, Jim,” he queried, “what are you blatantly self-
promoting? And why do you call this the ‘Rumproast
Wrapdown’ report?”

Well, schizophrenic voice in my head, I’m glad you asked
that. First of all, I’m blatantly promoting my existing work, which
consists of, as I type this, four published short stories and
two book reviews. OK, three published, but by the time this ends up
on the web, a fourth will be published. The main thing I’m plugging
is a novel-in-progress called “Northcoast Shakedown,” the first book
in a series about Cleveland-based PI Nick Kepler. I call this little
peek into the bizarre inner workings of my mind “Rumproast
Wrapdown” after a friend of mine decided the book’s title
needed punching up. I dunno. I like the original title better,
but Eddie Murphy already took “CILL My Landlord.”

“What a minute, Jim. Isn’t there already a Cleveland-based
PI? Written by a guy who lives in Cleveland?”

Yes, there is. Les Roberts has been writing the Milan
Jacovich series for about fourteen years now. He’s been
president of the Private-Eye Writers of America and wrote
a killer article in Bob Randisi’s book, “Writing the Private
Eye Novel” a few years back. He’s also a fellow Browns
fan, and shares with me a love of a great city on a Great
Lake and a severe loathing of a certain football team that
plays in Baltimore. He’s also one of the classiest gentlemen
in the business.

So why am I writing on Milan’s turf? Milan’s been around
since the late eighties. He’s established. Anything new
set in Cleveland is just that: new. Nick Kepler, if
Clevelanders like him, and I think they will, is
simply my Jacobs Field to Les’s Terminal Tower. It’s a
new part of the city’s fictional landscape. Besides, Les
was a big part of Cleveland’s turnaround. Me? I moved to
Cincinnati for the love of a good woman and
the fact that I’d somehow found myself way out in the
boonies a decade ago. In short, I’m writing from home-
sickness.

“Well, Jim, if you’re such a big Les Roberts fan, why does
this sound like a Larry Block article from ‘Writer’s
Digest’?”

Because LB is another major influence? On that note, oh, imaginary pal
whom I haven’t heard from since my bachelor party…

“Er. Sorry about that stripper, Jim. Did Mrs. Winter find
out?”

Yes, and she was impressed with the quality of the
blackkmail photos.

Ahem! Where was I?

Oh, yes. Influences. Outside of Les, who writes about my
hometown, and LB, whose writing books almost literally taught
me how to write, the only other major influences I’ll mention
here are the four Great Gods of the Hard-Boiled: Hammet,
Chandler, Ross MacDonald, and Parker, if only because
every PI writer these days says a solemn prayer of thanks to
these four every time they boot up their computer. If I
started bandying the names of authors I’ve read, liked, and
learned from, chances are, I’d offend someone I missed,
most likely someone who’s also a major influence, even
more likely someone I know. (Right now, that’s not too
many major and midlevel writers, but quite a few names
you’ll know in the near future.) Besides, I don’t like name-
dropping. I will say that Robert Crais once said, “Hi, Jim”
to me. If he remembers it, I’d be very surprised.

So anyway, here’s the skinny. What I’m writing here is a
daily (almost) write-up on what’s going on in Jim’s little
world as I work on my very first novel. Well, daily during
productions of drafts. I really don’t  think you want to read
about how I spent the day processing PC equipment requests
(what I’m supposed to be doing instead of writing this at the
moment) while I’m letting a draft ferment. I’m sure some of
you would love to learn about some fannish things I’ve done
and will still do for a little while longer. But this is
eventually going for the web, and frankly, publishers would
rather we authors not discuss how we wrote “Bonanza/X-Files”
crossovers before going pro. Actually, I preferred writing
Star Trek: The J Winter Generation, but again, I don’t think
I can discuss that here.

What I can discuss is what’s happening as I prepare to
write the novel, write it, revise it, and try to sell it.
I’ve laid it out in a project  charter, if you can believe that.
I’m killing three birds with one stone.

First, since I have to earn a living, it forces me to learn
project  management, as, yea, verily, the CEO of my primary
employer has thus  decreed. Can I have a hallelujah, brethren
and sistren? Second, it forces me to organize writing this book
so I actually get it done. And finally, it gives Mrs. Winter a
piece of paper that lets her keep after me until I produce a
finished draft. In short, it forces me to work.

I thought it’d be an interesting experience to record what
happens when someone writes their first book and tries to
take it to market. The project management method just puts
it on a time frame, so you won’t have to tune in when the child
you’re expecting is asking you to send money because college
keggers are expensive.

Hopefully, I won’t bore you to death with too many
mundane details. If I do, say so. I can be reached at
[email protected]

And like Rockford used to say, “Leave a message at the
beep and I’ll get back to you.”

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