Countdown to release: Character development

The wise-cracking, action detective is a bit of an archetype. What makes mine special,? Well, I thought it would be interesting if he was serious about music. Jazz helped define the era 1920-1940s, symbolizing moving away from formal traditions, opportunities for minorities and women to have their talents recognized, and a celebration of individuality. Raf’s love of jazz shapes who he is, lively and open-minded. As the years go on, he’ll be interacting with the music of different times, too, helping describe his relationship with the period. Another thing about Raf is that he mostly likes people. He’s no loner. His friends are an important part of his stories.

As for his friends, Eugene Marshall fits another archetype, the millionaire playboy. Except he’s both self-made *and* has autism symptoms. I didn’t want him to be obnoxious, so I looked for a way to make him a little vulnerable. The autism traits are taken from me. When Allan asked me, “Which of your characters are you most like: Rafael or Clara?” I had to say, “Honestly? Eugene.”

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Analytical and smart, but naive and not great at filtering what should be said and what shouldn’t in the speed of a conversation.

World War Two brought out the strength in a lot of women. Agent Carter is a large part of the inspiration for Clara Thomas, but so are the real women of Bletchley Park, the WAVES, WACs and WASPS, and so on. But too often a strong woman is considered enough ‘development’. I thought it would be great if her strength came out of her weakness– she’d been an abused woman and had help getting herself together. Going on missions rebuilt her confidence in herself. Her strength isn’t an innate gift, but the result of fighting back and finding her power. I think that’s not just a good example, but a way to push back against the stereotype that abuse victims choose victimhood.

Countdown to release: These are a Few of my Favorite Things.

I mention in the acknowledgments that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. But the names I list might not be familiar to everyone.

Marlowe

Raymond Chandler was the creator of Phillip Marlowe. He didn’t create the hard-boiled detective genre, but he saw untapped potential in it. He started writing his own, bringing in a more sophisticated style of writing. He believed that people could enjoy exciting plot twists and still get literary touches.

Dan Curtis was a television producer, but not just a producer. He came up with and developed ideas for shows. His first foray into fiction was based on a dream that a friend told him sounded like gothic horror. He’d never heard of that genre before, plunged into it, and came out with a successful gothic soap opera that saved a television network. One of his followup projects, Kolchak, the Nightstalker, features a classically abrasive investigative reporter who keeps finding paranormal dangers at the heart of strange events in Chicago. It was brilliant and funny, and I was delighted to be compared to it.

Marv Wolfman might seem like the most obscure name I gave, but he’s been a tremendous influence on comic books and has wrtiten television shows. One of his specialties is re-imagining classic monsters into contemporary stories. He’s also remarkable for working out how to fix inconsistencies in an ongoing story line..

I’d also like to say Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books helped me see there is a market for this kind of old-fashioned character and cross-genre writing. Unlike the Dresden books, this is actually set back in the heyday of the private eye’s he emulates. And my detective, rather than starting out as an expert on the occult, begins blissfully unaware.

Less directly, I’m sure Terry Pratchett has been an influence, if only because he’s my favorite writer and I’ve read the Watch books over and over.

And… Star Wars. No, really. Watching The Force Awakens, I thought, “This guy doing Poe Dameron would be good as one of those smart-alec detectives.” And the idea of doing a Latino detective in period was intriguing. I’ll get into that in my next post.

Countdown to release: Film Noir?

Can a book be film noir? Well, given that “film” is in the genre title, I’d say not.

But, there are many film noir movies that are based on books.The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, for instance, came from novels by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler respectively. Thus, it may be useful to categorize a book style as film noir. There are many kinds of detective stories: police procedural, cozies, analytical, and forensic, to name a few approaches. Film noir gives you an idea of what to expect.

Some of the defining aspects of the film noir cinematic style are visual– tilted camera angles and dramatic lighting. That isn’t readily captured in a novel… but it helped me choose my author photo.

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One of the absolute requirements of film noir is sexual tension. I’ve kept that in mind while writing these. Many characters are attractive and there are complications in their interactions with each other that keep it interesting. First person narration means that, although the protagonist is himself a very attractive man, the descriptions focus more on the female characters.

Of course, film noir also dwells on the darker side of social behavior. Usually, it has to do with crime. Not all film noir stories are mysteries. Some are capers; some are escapes; some are thrillers. But at heart, there’s generally a legal line being crossed or contemplated. Rafael has plenty of that to deal with, mostly from others, although he has to skirt the line himself in a few ways.

Finally, while this is not genre defining (film noir movies have been made since), the bulk of film noir movies were made from 1944-1954 in AMerica. Forever’s Too Long is set in 1947, in New York City, so describing it as film noir (or just noir), helps imply the setting.

Film noir movies have an air of fatalism, pessimism and menace, though, and… The Forever Detective moves in and out of that. Rafael faces a heavy menace. There are hints that he’s following a fate he knows nothing about, but others do. More will be explored about that in the sequels. As for pessimism, Rafael is torn between hope and fear. However, action helps him keep his focus emotionally and his warm personality and sense of humor contrast with the noir aspects.

So…. noir light? A dance/action number in shades of grey? Read it and decide.

Countdown to release:7 Days. Why Print-On-Demand?

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So, one of the first things I often hear from people when they hear I have a book coming out is, “Who’s your publisher?”

There’s long been a stigma to self-publishing, and until recently, it was deserved. A writer had to buy a few thousand copies to get it printed at reasonable rates and generally did so as a pet project. Anyone who wanted to reach a wide audience and to possibly make money had to find a publisher who thought their work was high enough quality to invest in. It would go through rounds of editing before ever going to the shops. A real publisher meant the writer had talent. Self-publishing just meant they had money.

But.

That was then. This is now. Everyone knows there have been radical changes in how books are sold.There are many formats besides paper. Bookstore chains have collapsed or moved to online only. Publishing houses rise and fall, to the point where there are few one has heard of. But more has happened behind the scenes. Publishers tend not to invest in writers who aren’t celebrities. Instead, even authors who have turned a modest profit on multiple books are asked to shoulder the burden of “typesetting fees”. The manuscript is rarely put through an editing process. What most publishers look for is one thing: marketability. They are looking for a trendy subject, a sexy concept, and work that fits neatly into a hot genre or niche market.

Allan and I worked together on his first project to create something ended up combining thriller, paranormal investigation, police procedural,science fiction, horror, and strongly featured a lesbian couple. It didn’t fit neatly into a genre and as Allan researched the market and the experience of other writers, he realized how much things had changed.

With print on demand technology, works can be published with little more investment than the blood, sweat, and tears of the writer. Not relying on a publisher who doesn’t want to pay an editor to proofread the material, error checking is done by volunteers, and by several read-throughs by the author who is deeply committed to putting out a quality product. A publisher wants to sell a book and if the reader is dissatisfied, it means little. You’ll buy another author next time. The writer, on the other hand, has to deliver great work if they want readers to love their book and look for more by them.

In short, I don’t believe publishers care as much about quality as marketing at this point. And while anyone can self-publish a book these days, it’s not a warning sign that it was unpublishable by other means, because print-on-demand is great for giving an author more control, a greater profit share, and a way to reach a large audience, hence it is the first choice rather than last resort. Allan and I have chosen this route and advise others to do the same.

Interestingly, the publishing houses track print-on-demand sales. If an author makes themselves into hot property, then they may be offered a favorable contract that will help them get into more brick-and-mortar stores. Ultimately– the fate of writers is in the hands of the readers. Thank you for thinking of me!

“Forever’s Too Long” Book Trailer…

These days, books as well as movies are often advertised with trailers that use images and sound to give you an idea of the flavor of the book, as well as sharing information about genre, storyline, and availability.

Allan Krummenacker was a huge help with this, doing the actual production based on music and images I chose, and a few finds of his own, but I especially like his vocal work– since the book is almost entirely first person narration, I decided to script the trailer that way, so he’s giving the voice of Rafael Jones.

*And remember the book will be available on June 1st, but you can still pre-order an e-copy at the following links:

Nook:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forevers-too-long-helen-krummenacker/1131555250?ean=2940163217083

Amazon: 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RSGKTDF

AmazonUK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RSGKTDF

AmazonCA:

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07RSGKTDF

AmazonAU:

https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07RSGKTDF

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/938589

Also there will be signed trade paperback copies available upon request. Simply leave a comment in the section below, or e-mail me at: 

helenkrummenacker@gmail.com

Author photos

For many of us, the worst thing is having everything ready for the proof copy, then remembering that an author’s photo is expected. You don’t want it to put anyone off or distract from the story. You’ve been spending ages editing and the idea of getting dressed up and going to a studio to get photos done is a recipe for exhaustion.

Well, when your character is a private eye, why not do a little film noir cosplay and see what happens?

Time, time, time, see what’s become…

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I thought one of the wonderful things about starting a  series in the 1940s was that there would be so much time to move forward in.

And yet the second book, set only a few months after the first, is rooted more-or-less in the 1920s. A ghost becomes a sort of secondary client for the detective as his attempt to determine a house is not haunted does the reverse. His heart goes out to a murdered flapper and he seeks out a murderer on this very cold case in the hopes that getting justice will help her find peace. During the Prohibition Era, gangsters were often treated like celebrities and the elite might be found rubbing elbows with them. What kind of chaos happened when a teenager house-sat for his family at a manor too close to the Canadian border to be dry?

For Rafael, there’s a bit of nostalgia in re-visiting the 20s. For me, there’s a lot of research! And a little bit of irony.

Writing in a different time period

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The internet makes doing basic research so much easier for many things.

I was going to use the phrase “coloring inside the lines” and then had to ask myself– would a guy in his 30’s in the 40’s use that phrase? When were coloring books invented? They seem like something that’s just been around forever. Well, it only took about a minute to do the research to find out they’d been around about 100 years by then, so yes, it was fine to use.

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Likewise, I needed to see if a fire-axe back then fit my mental image of one… even though I don’t describe it in detail, there was a possibility I would use it on the cover. Another question I had was if a passport problem would legitimately be used to delay someone leaving the country.

Back before the internet, I’d have needed to look for very, very specific history books for images of fire axes, an encyclopedia for the coloring book history, and as for the passport issue, I’d probably need to look into procedural handbooks from the New York-New Jersey Port Authority from 1948. Finding those sources would all have been difficult.

There’s something wonderful about having so much information at our fingertips.