An interview with Ben Solomon

BenSolomonBen Solomon grew up with Picasso, Cagney and Beethoven. Classical arts training, comic books and Hollywood’s golden age rounded out his education and provided inspiration for a lifetime. He’s worked across many disciplines, attempting to capture the heart and soul of music onto canvas, translating oils and celluloid into words.
Solomon’s passion for the tough guy world of early gangster and PI flicks led to the creation of “The Hard-Boiled Detective,” a short story series starring a nameless gumshoe in a throwback era seeking truth, justice, and sometimes a living. He launched the ongoing series online in February 2013, offering three yarns a month to subscribers. His sleuth has appeared in e-zines across the web as well as the 2014 anthology “The Shamus Sampler II.” Another adventure is scheduled to appear in an upcoming anthology published by Fox Spirit Books.

Samples and more information about Solomon’s old-school crime series can be found here: http://thehardboileddetective.com/

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Ben: On and off for about 30 years. I’ve been all over the map, artistically.

Except for librettos. Have written any of those, yet.

I’ve been driving cars for more than 40 years, but that hasn’t gained me any particular respect or fame either.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Ben: That comes and goes day to day.

I haven’t achieved what I’d call professional success, but every now and then I hit an artistic note that resonates deep.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Ben: I can’t say I had any expectations. I sure had no idea how overwhelming the isolation of writing can be. Ain’t that ironic? Here you are, recording all your so-called brilliant observations on life, and you do it by chaining yourself to a keyboard and shutting off the rest of the world.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Ben: Is that what the general public thinks? I’ll have to ask them.

Income-wise I’m right on schedule. Some days as I make as much as blind painter.

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Ben: A long time ago I founded two monthly magazines. That’s a cheap way, commercially speaking, of getting published.

As for books, I cheated and recently self-published my first volume.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Ben: I’d self-publish a hell of a lot sooner.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Ben: Part of that is done for me. I’ve been writing three stories a month for my hard-boiled detective series since February 2013. My schedule for that is to create one per week, and then final edit and polish the fourth week of every month.

Beyond that, I keep a calendar I maintain by the seat of my pants. I think I need  a good tailor.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Ben: Hard to nail down one, but there’s something that’s floored me on the way to publishing my first book.

Seeking blurbs, reviews and publicity, I’ve been taken aback by the graciousness and generosity of so many other writers and people in the media. Even a lot of folks who turned down my queries did so by falling all over themselves with apologies. It still amazes me.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Ben: Simply put—writing better. I wish my craft was better, I wish I wrote more succinctly and stronger, I wish I had more creative energy…The list goes on and on.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Ben: Talent and voice, two immeasurable qualities unique to every writer out there.

Most of my work’s in the throwback style of Black Mask, Chandler, etc. (That’s not meant as a comparison of quality.) The genre and form is nothing new, but I like to think the way I use it is fresh.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Ben: Keep writing, and write your ass off. And make sure it’s every bit your own.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Ben: For indies like myself, the concrete tools are social media which also translates into word of mouth.

Within that, it comes back to the unique qualities of talent and voice.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Ben: Reaching my audience. I know they’re out there. Maybe not enough for a best seller, but I’m convinced more than enough to create a solid following.

I just took a quick peek out my front door, but didn’t see any at the moment.

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Ben: I’d like to mention City Lit Books and Uncharted Books, both in Chicago, as well as The Book Table in Oak Park. They’re all great supporters of local and indie writers.
PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

HBDetective
Ben:The Hard-Boiled Detective 1,” 2014.

I’ve already got enough yarns for three more volumes if this one finds its legs.
PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Ben: For the first time, the original 11 yarns from Ben Solomon’s ongoing, throw-back crime series are available in one volume. His nameless detective faces murderers, blackmailers, adulterers and racketeers—and that’s only the first story in this collection. Ten more tales cover a never-ending parade of lowlifes, misfits and suckers, all narrated by the hard-luck gumshoe in his statements to the cops. If you’re a fan of “Black Mask,” Chandler and Hammett, you’ll get a bang out of Solomon’s take on old-school detective fiction.
PJ: Where can we buy it?

Ben: As of this writing, the paperback has just gone up on Amazon

The ebook version will be available from major distributors by mid-September.

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Ben: Inspiration’s a funny thing. You could say “The Hard-Boiled Detective 1” goes back to my childhood and watching old Hollywood flicks on late-night TV. I wanted to capture the spirit of Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, the whole Warner Brothers gangster cycle, and reinvent it on the printed page.

 

 

 

An interview with Dr. Glenn Parris

Professional PhotoAs a board certified rheumatologist, Glenn Parris has practiced medicine in the northeast Atlanta suburbs for over 20 years. He has been writing for nearly as long.

 Originally from New York City, Parris migrated south to escape the cold and snow, but fell in love with the southern charms of Georgia and Carla, his wife of nearly 23 years. He now writes cross-genre in medical mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. The Renaissance of Aspirin is his debut novel.

Website URL: www.GlennParris.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlennParris.FictionWriter

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Glenn: I’ve been writing for pleasure for over 20 years, but I really think I started writing in 2010 when I went to a workshop for physician writers hosted by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Glenn: I was extremely happy when the first few reviews started coming through.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Glenn: No. I guess like all writers, I thought that writing my stories was the hard part. Developing characters, plot, tone, etc. that’s a major milestone, but the real challenge is marketing the book.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Glenn: Say that to an audience of writers and you’ll get more laughs than a Robin Williams bit (rest his soul). You might make enough for a nice vacation if your sales are fairly good. You can do a nice renovation on a basement, kitchen or bathroom if sales are good, you might even put a kid through college if you’re lucky and sales are very good. Hit the jackpot and you can quit a good day job.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Glenn: Writing the next story and getting the word out in advance to booksellers and reviewers. Developing a loyal audience is key in this day and age.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Glenn: I self published which used to be a terrible thing to admit, but that lingers among agents and publishers mostly. I publish when I think the story is ready for the world of readers. For me it’s usually about two to three years. A little faster maybe for sequels.  If you have a good editor and your story is popular, I don’t think readers make the distinction.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Glenn: I would have liked to have met a good publicist before the release date and developed more of a plan.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Glenn: You have to have good people around you who know what you don’t. When you self pub you need very good people around you. And a lot of friends.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Glenn: Fans. I can’t find the words to describe the feeling I get when readers share my visions and feelings. Not everyone will like your work so no matter how you go about publishing you need a thick skin, but even critics who are honest sometimes give good feedback you may incorporate into future works.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Glenn: The realization that so many people who identify themselves as readers can’t find time to read these days.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your book?

Glenn: I got a cold call e-mail from an agent who heard the premise for The Renaissance of Aspirin, and asked to see the manuscript that she heard about from another agent I pitched to at a workshop.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Glenn: This is the first work of fiction to address Fibromyalgia. It’s a condition that’s poorly understood even by experts in the field and so many suffers are shunned into silence as family and friends believe they are hypochondriacs.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Glenn: Keep writing. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Read in your chosen genre and analyze what you read.  It’s the cheapest workshop you’ll ever find! Work with other for feedback.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Glenn: Even in this world of digital media, I find going where readers go to be the best strategy.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Glenn: Digital media. Facebook, twitter and blogging don’t come naturally to me so I struggle with them.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Glenn: Book Warehouse and Books for Less.

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:TRoA cover

 

The Renaissance of Aspirin


PJ: Where can we buy it?

Glenn: Book Warehouse, Books for Less, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and of course my publisher Xlibris of the Penguin Publishing Group.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Glenn: The Renaissance of Aspirin is a modern southern romantic thriller. I think it works as a work of fiction, but the scientific theme reinforces the need for more research and support in fibromyalgia and other systemic diseases.

The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver

skincollectorThe Skin Collector 

Jeffery Deaver

A Lincoln Rhyme Novel

Grand Central Publishing, 2014, 448 Pagesjc-jeffery-deaver-3

ISBN No. : 978-1455517138

 

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

 

 

Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic criminalist and his highly trained team are faced with a killer that has studied Rhyme’s methods and has learned how to cover up evidence and leave Rhyme’s team reaching for clues. The killer has located a book about serial killers that includes a chapter written by Lincoln Rhyme on The Bone Collector. The book is where he got his knowledge of how to avoid leaving evidence.

 

The killer who has been dubbed The Skin Collector tends to work underground and tattoos messages on his victims.  However, these tattoos are not the ordinary type the tattoo gun is loaded with poison and the victim dies a horrifying death.

 

Rhyme’s team is working at top speed to locate The Skin Collector and stop the killing.  The Skin Collector is a tricky individual and really had me fooled.   I was down to the last page before I realized what the tatoo artist was really after.

 

I have enjoyed all Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme books but I think this one tops the list.   I totally enjoy reading about Rhyme’s staff and their loyalty.

 

An interview with Mike Witzgall

407I’m delighted to introduce you to Mike Witzgall (if you don’t know him yet) or to share this news with those of you who’ve known him for a while. Many first met him when he and his wife Shelly handled the mock crime scenes for us at our Criminal Pursuits conferences. You know that he’s full of information and probably a few other things, and that’s he’s loads of fun. But you might not have known what a great writer he is! A very pleasant surprise. Enjoy!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

MW: Starting in 1992 I started writing technical articles about law enforcement training – specifically, SWAT and Special Operations. Since then, I have written 15 published articles and 8 SWAT training manuals. I started writing fiction about 5 years ago.

I got interested in writing fiction over a period of several years – during those years; I was a guest speaker at several mystery writer’s conferences. I spoke on everything from police shoot outs to knife and bullet wounds. I loved it! What I learned at those conferences was (a) everyone has a story to tell including me and; (b) if you are not writing your story, someone else is!  

PJ: What types of things have you written?

MW: To this point, mostly technical articles. Sentinel’s Choice is my first shot at fiction.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

MW: I’ll have to let you know one this one!

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

MW: It is and it isn’t! I love the time I spend writing and creating a story. But I was surprised at how long and in depth the editing would be.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?SC front cover

MW: Most writers ‘write’ because it’s a passion they have. Very few actually make a living at it. Since I am new to all this, I haven’t made much – but there is always tomorrow!

PJ: How did your work as a police officer prepare you or enable you to write mystery? Give an example if possible.

MW: One thing we teach rookies in the academies is that every crime committed is actually a mystery waiting to be solved. Sometimes there is an element of a thriller to it and sometimes not. Look at the Beltway Sniper incident (circa 2002). I was not remotely involved in the investigation, but as a citizen and a cop, I followed the story/investigation closely. Looking back on it, it had all the elements of murder mystery/thriller. It had the murders of innocent people, it had (in this case media induced) false leads, it had the confusion that almost all investigations have, etc. The end (the motive) was nothing like any of us thought it would be. It was about insurance!

My honest belief is that darn near every cop in America could be a mystery/thriller writer if they just took the time to do so.

PJ: Are you able to use real situations as inspiration? Can you share any with us?

MW: Almost everything that happened in the book (with the exception of the actual story line) to the protagonist happened to me or officers that I worked with at some point in my career.  Real life situational inspiration is easy to find in a law enforcement career. My best story (that I used) was when Ren and Tex are clearing a house alone. As they make entry they realize that the house is incredibly hot inside – every heating unit that can be on is turned up full blast (including the fire place, oven and space heaters). This greatly accelerated the decomposition of the murdered victim.

PJ: You and Shelly were huge assets to us when we were hosting Criminal Pursuits conferences for writers. How do you think the examination of the mock crime scenes most helped crime writers?

MW: Our hope was that we taught the writers some things about murder investigations and how difficult it is to investigate one.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

MW: Actually very poorly, but I am learning! I actually have had to write out a daily itinerary that I follow.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

MW: Getting the work finally published and out on the market!

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

MW: That things took so long. Nobody’s fault – it just took longer than I had expected.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

MW: Well, it hasn’t happened yet… but I have a book signing on February 1st that I am really pumped about. Even if only one person shows up, I’ll be jazzed.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

MW: Accuracy of location and police and investigative procedures. More than anything else, it’s a good story.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

MW: Keep going! Don’t give up.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

MW: Having a good editor, publicist and friends that will review your work and keep you on track.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

MW: Since I am still learning… I’ll have to let ya know on this.

If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Sentinel’s Choice – you’ll want to be in on Mike’s new career from the beginning! And do stop in Barnes & Noble in Cedar Hill TX on Saturday Feb. 1 at 2pm – there’ll be a party going on!

http://www.mikewitzgall.com