Thursday, November 3, 2016

November is the month in which ALL royalties from ALL channels and formats from the sale of Chisolm’s Debt are donated to support veterans. In the past, I have supported Bob Woodruff’s Stand Up for Heroes event, and that is the tentative plan for this year. If I discover a local veteran’s support program, then I will donate the proceeds there instead.  The important part for you, the reader, is that if you choose to read (or listen to) Chisolm’s Debt and buy it in November, 100% of my royalty will go in support of veterans.

As a veteran myself, I have incredible respect for the men and women who serve our nation. I believe we should continue to care for them while and after they serve. Donating the royalties from Chisolm’s Debt is my small way of helping out.

Chisolm’s Debt features a protagonist named Thomas Chisolm who is a veteran, as well as an antagonist who is also a veteran, both of whom are dealing with issues springing from the time in which they served. Chisolm is one of the major characters in the River City series, but these events take place after he retires from the RCPD. Here’s the summary:

After two tours in Vietnam and 25 years as a police officer, Thomas Chisolm is looking forward to a quiet retirement. That hope is quickly shattered when Mai, a ghost from his past, finds him and demands justice for the horrors she suffered during the Vietnam War…horrors Chisolm couldn’t save her from.

Now Chisolm must find the man responsible and bring him to justice to repay an old debt and in the hopes of putting his own demons to rest…once and for all.

Follow Chisolm on his search as he explores the nature of moral debt, war, forgiveness, and guilt on his way to an explosive ending.

Thanks for your support, and for any support you offer the veterans of America. They deserve it year-round.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I Wish Books Had Theme Songs...

One of the things you don't get when you read a book is the audio component. I mean, sure, if you get the AUDIO book, you get that. But even then, it still doesn't approach the power of a theme song. Movies use this to great effect, but in my mind, TV does even better. If it is a successful, appropriate theme, just a few notes of it can bring all of the emotions experienced during the story raging up to the surface. It can make you sad, excited, angry, inspired...all of which is a good thing, right? Storytelling is all about emotion, after all.

Books don't really have that. Oh sure, some authors and publishers have dabbled in "book trailers", but I've got to say that I've not really seen one that got me excited the same way a good movie trailer does, much less a TV theme. As authors, we just rely on different ways to connect with the reader. It's a completely different medium.

But I love theme songs. The good ones, anyway. So here are my top ten TV theme songs. I based the ranking on overall appeal, connection to theme or tone of the show, how good the show itself was, how hearing the theme song made me feel (then and now), and absolute personal bias.Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

Here we go:

10. Star Trek
To boldy go...yes! I grew up on re-runs of Captain Kirk and his crew. When those first few notes jumped out of the TV, they never failed to set the stage for an exciting episode. Sure, the special effects are dated now. Sure, the writing was sometimes horrid (but often outstanding!). Say what you want -- it was made from '66-'68, so for the time period, they rocked it. But this is about how perfectly this theme meshed with the show itself, that sense of adventure and action and exploration...yeah, pretty much awesome. Honorable mention:  Battlestar Galactica

9. NYPD Blue  

This show was, at the time, probably the most realistic cop drama this side of Hill Street Blues. And it really pushed the boundaries of the time for realism in terms of what would or wouldn't be censored. More than that, the show was character-driven a good percentage of the time, really highlighting what the detectives and officers were experiencing. Sure, it was uber dramatic, but that's what makes successful TV. All I know is that this theme song takes off at a breakneck pace and really sets up the drama to come. Honorable mention:  Miami Vice.

8. Cheers
One of only two sitcoms to make the list, probably because I write dramatic novels, mostly. I mean, there's certainly humor in my books, but that's not the main goal. It's to tell a dramatic story. Humor is part of the fabric but not the focus. But in the case of Cheers, the characters are so well-drawn that we (read: I) became so attached to them that when something dramatic occurred, we (read: I) felt it deeply. Plus, the lyrics of the chorus in this bittersweet song capture elements of our human experience that we intrinsically value. Who doesn't want to go somewhere where everyone knows your name? Who doesn't want to be part of a family?  Honorable Mention:  Friends.

7. Magnum, P.I.
What a great show this was. Action, humor, humility, rascalness...and all of it is caught in the opening theme. Magnum had two episodes I never forgot: The one where he gets lost at sea, treading water for a day, remembering his father, and the one where Magnum acts out of character at the end of the episode, outright murdering a bad guy to avenge his old friend. The theme song brings those two episodes right to mind the instant I hear it. Plus, if you merit a positive treatment in Archer, you did something right.  Honorable Mention: The Rockford Files

6. M*A*S*H
Does anyone not get that bittersweet pang when the opening notes of this fired up? And this was for a comedy, too! But the reality is that it was a comedy that explored a lot of dramatic territory. Much like science fiction, comedy allows extra latitude sometimes when it comes to that. M*A*S*H certainly took advantage of that, firing up plenty of funny along the way. And it always seemed ironic to me that one of the highest rated comedies of all time on television had a theme song called "Suicide is Painless."

5. Boss 
Here's one some people may not be overly familiar with. It was a Starz production that only ran for two seasons. But they were powerful seasons, and Kelsey Grammar as a the fictional mayor of Chicago was outstanding. Robert Plant's re-imagining of the old gospel tune that serves as the series theme song is understated, which contrasts brilliantly with some of the over the top acts that Grammar and his cohorts engage in. And the lyrics clearly match the (barely) subtext of the show's theme about power and corruption.

4. Vikings
The impending fear of fast approaching longships, attacks that are swift and dramatic, a warrior/raider life...does this theme not capture all of that? You can feel it from the side of the invaders and the invaded at once, while also getting a feel for the supernatural that this show weaves in throughout all of the drama.  Honorable Mention: Spartacus

3. The Wire 

This song really fit the theme of the show. "Keep the devil down in the hole..." applied to the cops and criminals and politicians and teachers and newspaper journalists alike. In addition, HBO kept this same song for all five seasons but every season, it was performed by a radically different musician. This stylistic change nicely mirrored how the emphasis of each season was on the cops and...well, something else each year. Lastly, the gritty tone of this song and the evocative lyrics fit the characters and the situations explored in this series.

2. The Sopranos
What a perfect theme for a tremendous program. It is one of the few intros that I doubt gets skipped very often even when one is binge watching. The images this song plays out against is probably part of its success, as well as the abrupt ending. I don't know. What I do know is that..."I woke up this myself a gun...."
Honorable Mention: Sons of Anarchy

And the winner is...

1. Game of Thrones 

What else could be #1? The anticipation that goes along with every new episode is perfectly highlighted by this theme. The tone captures the medieval sense of the show, the danger, the sadness, and the tension that seems to be present in virtually every scene. As theme songs go, Game of Thrones is certainly as epic as the story-telling within. Look, any show that can a husband and wife sitting on the couch humming the theme in counterpoint every single time is nothing short of iconic.
Honorable Mention: Are you kidding me?

So there you have it. Something that TV absolutely does better than books -- theme songs.

All I can hope for is that someday one of my books gets made into a series, and if that happens, that the theme song is super awesome the ones I talked about here.

Until then...bum bum bumpa bum bum bumpa bum...da da da-da-dahhh...da-da-dahh...

Oh, and check out The Short List, my latest release, written with Eric Beetner. This series could have one hell of a theme song...!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Desert that this Blog has become....

November 30th, 2015. Holy Cow. It's been a while since I've contributed to my own blog. I guess it is kind of fitting, given the general focus of the blog -- my writing journey. The journey itself has been a little stalled, and so it follows that the blog that accompanies it would be.

What happened?


For one, I started working as a consultant, teaching leadership in policing for a prominent non-profit organization. Since starting in early 2014 (I went to training in the latter quarter of 2013), I've taught about one week a month, all over North America: Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, Norfolk, Sarasota, Miami Beach, St. Louis, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, London (Ontario). It's an intense, deep course full of behavioral science, as well as newer research. It's been a time commitment to learn and begin to master the material, to travel and to teach it, and to do the deeper, source readings. I love it, because it has been an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to a profession that not only needs, but deserves, the very best of leadership. So in that sense, it has been extraordinarily gratifying, and continues to be.

The down side is, this two years of teaching seemed to either correspond with or have some impact on my creative process. More to the point, my "drive" to explore those writing worlds. Not that I didn't write, or that I didn't love it, but I wrote less, and I felt less driven at times. That's why much of my output over the past two years has been collaborations, I think. In those projects, someone else was counting on me, so I put my butt in the seat and wrote. However, where my solo work was concerned, if I wasn't "feeling it", I had the latitude to just not write. And so I didn't.

If I'm being honest, I haven't even been that great about collaborations. One writer and I have done a little prep work on a zombie novel/series, but that has remained at a standstill with a lot of my solo work. I just wasn't feeling it.

The strange thing is, event though I've felt that way intermittently over the past two years, I could always tell it was a transitory thing. In other words, I knew I was feeling that way at the time, but that it would change. And that it would eventually change back to where I've been most of my life, which is, frankly, rabid about writing.

The good news for me, and for my seven remaining fans, is that I feel like that time is returning. That sense of excitement about my own ideas is there again, and the irrepressible urge to get those stories and characters out onto the page is building.

The timing is good. My second Bricks and Cam Job novel with Eric Beetner, The Short List, is coming out on August 1. I have another book, The Last Collar with Larry Kelter, due in January 2017. But outside of that, there is nothing finished or ready.

I am working on a stand alone right now, tentatively titled In the Cut. It's a bit of crime fiction against the back drop of an outlaw motorcycle gang. After I've finished with that (and I'm about 1/3 through it), I am planning a return to River City for the fifth installment in my flagship series.

What else is on the horizon? Lots.

Because I'm feeling it again.