Thursday, March 31, 2011

The character called Smitty

I have a character I've recently created named Smitty. Smitty is a hit man. A man with no outward signs of remore or conscience. Yet someone who has a deep streak of Old Testament Puritanical Justice running through him.

In creating this guy this question arouse. How do you create a cold-blooded killer who shows no outward expression of emotion and make him both interesting, if not outright worthy of admiration? Another question arouse; How do you separate this killer from all the other characters in print who are, essentially, the same in every measurable description?

Tough questions. Questions which I may not have the answers to.

One possible answer for making Smitty interesting is--writing style Throw the words on paper, or the viewscreen for the technologically apt reader, in such a way as to grab the reader's interest immediately and never let it go. I think the visuals of something that's read is almost as important as the plot. The characters.

Maybe not. You decide.

Below is a short Smitty story I wrote a little while ago. Read it and tell me what you think. Be honest. I have a thick skin. Hell, I'm a writer. In this business you have to be thick skinned.

Do it quietly, Smitty

He rolled out of his CTS Caddy and closed the door softly. Reaching inside his sport coat he pulled out a pair of dark aviator’s sunglasses and slipped them on. An odd gesture, considering his eyes were as black as a moonless night in Hades itself. Glancing to his left and then to his right he checked out the pedestrian traffic.

It was a Sunday. Young mothers were out pushing strollers, paired with other young mothers. Talking and gesturing with their hands and enjoying their brisk walk. Older couples were walking, hand in hand, as they strolled back from the local church service. The sun was warm and pleasant on the back of his sport coat. Birds were darting back and forth from tree to tree. There was no breeze to speak of. There was little traffic plowing back and fourth down the quiet street.

Nothing seemed out of place.

Nothing looked odd.

The aviator’s glasses went back to the glass door of the small coffee shop directly in front of him. Through the large plate glass windows he counted the number of people inside. Eight. Four sitting quietly at the counter drinking coffee–four street punks sitting in a booth to one side jacking around with each other. Glancing down at the gold Rolox wrapped around his wrist a thin curl of his lips–almost a snarl–broke across his face.

Good. Everyone was in place. Including his mark.

Anthony ‘Tony’ Toma sat on a stool exactly centered in the long span of the counter. A buy guy dressed in a tailored gray suit, black loafers, black shirt with a thin white tie. On Sunday Tony always dressed like this. Always. He had just come back from taking his mother to church. Stopped in to have two cups of jet black coffee and a sweet roll before he drove over to his girl friend’s apartment. Always. Like clockwork.

It was this clockwork regularity which was going to get him killed.

Reaching out with a hand the man with the coal black eyes opened the door to the coffee shop and stepped in. Looking neither right nor left he strolled over to one end of the counter and picked up a Sunday paper and then moved to one side and sat down at the counter exactly one bar stool separating himself from his mark.

“What’ll ya have, fella?” the young man for a waiter asked as he continued to dry a freshly washed coffee cup with a dry towel.

“Coffee. Black. No creme. And bring me a slice of that Pecan pie.”

Black eyes selected the front page section of the thick paper and pushed the rest to one side. To his left the four punks dressed in black leather jackets, patched up bluejeans, and miles of chains hanging from their back pockets kept on being the noisy creeps they were. Nobody paid any attention to them. Not even a tough guy like Toma.

“Here ya go, bub. You’ll like the pie. Best stuff in town,” the kid said as he sat the coffee cup and saucer down and then slid the pie in front of the man with the aviator’s glasses.

Not once did he glance at the big guy sitting to his left one stool away. He didn’t have to. He knew exactly what his mark would do next. Knew because he had been tailing his prey for the last two weeks. In his line of business you never did anything on the spur of the moment if you didn’t have to. Too many possibilities for mistakes. Costly mistakes. Best to watch and observe. Make notes–find the right place and the right weapon to get the job done.

Like this situation.

Toma had to die. But he had to die in a way that wouldn’t arouse suspicion. Couldn’t have the cops snooping around asking too many questions. The possibility of finding something to look deeper into was just too great of a chance to take. So his client told him–‘Do it quietly, Smitty. Do it quietly.’

His mark was a low life thug who liked to hurt people. Hurt them and kill them. Which, for certain forms of business transactions, might have its advantages in having an employee who liked this kind of business. But Toma was stupid. He bragged about hurting people. Opened his mouth and talked about his line of work whenever he had one drink too many. And the guy knew too much. Knew all the numbers. Knew the drop offs. Knew where the dead bodies were buried. Sooner or later someone was going to nab him. Nab him and put the screws to him. And Tony would squeal–squeal like a pig squealing over a hot fire pit in an effort to save himself.

A liability. That’s what Tony Toma was. A liability.

His job was to remove the liabilities. Remove them but in a quiet, non-threatening manner. One that wouldn’t arouse suspicion or have anyone asking too many questions. No problem.

Laying the fork onto the barren pie dish he glanced at the large round faced clock about the establishment’s coffee maker. And that’s when the fight stated. Two of the punks got into an argument. The argument’s volume increased. And then fists started flying. One punk climbed over the table and went after the other, both fists sailing through the air. The kid behind the counter yelped and dove for the phone. The four men sitting at the counter turned, grinned, and enjoyed the sudden exhibition of entertainment. Toma actually came off his stool and took one step closer to watch the two going at it.

Smitty came off his stool and turned to leave. One hand, the one holding the paper’s front page, swept across the counter and in front of Toma’s cup of coffee. His second hand, hidden by the paper, swept over the cup of joe and dropped two green colored gel caps into Toma’s drink.

And then he was out of the coffee shop and climbed into his Caddy. Later . . . much later . . . he would pay each of the four punks their C-notes for their unwitting assistance in the hit. He wanted to make sure they none of the kids would put two and two together. Time and distance would be just the ticket. But right now–right now he had a six block drive in front of him. He wanted to find a spot front of a certain apartment building. Six blocks was the time it would take for the poison to work. Just six blocks. By the time Tony turned and started up the ten steps leading to the brownstone’s front door . . . his massive heart attack would take place.

No questions. No snooping around in the man’s life. A heart attack in a man everyone knew who boozed and hit the drugs much too often to be healthy. Such a tragedy.

And the eyes of Hades burnt with humor as the plan unfolded before him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Luck, No. Two

Talking about Luck again. Two names.

Jean M. Aurel and Barry Eisler.


Jean M. Aurel wrote a book you are undoubtedly familiar with. At least with the title. Clan of the Cave Bear. A tome that is over 1,000 pages in length and hasn't a word of dialogue in it. Straight descriptive writing. A tour de force walk through of the Neolithic world where Cro Magnon man meets Neanderthal.

Her luck? First book--first attempt to find an agent; a done deal. Agent found and agent sold the book practically on their first attempt. For a stupendous sum of money.

Do you know the odds for this happening to a first-time writer on their very first book? Forget about getting hit with an asteroid; laugh off the idea about winning a 100 million dollar Lotto ticket. Think more along the lines of resurrecting the comedy group, Monty Python.

Barry Eisler.

Writer of spy/adventure thrillers. A very good writer. A writer who works hard at his craft. Eastablished. But so established as to say NO to a big time publisher who is offering him a half-million dollar contract? That's what he did. Firmly believes he can make more money self-publishing. Doing it on his own.

And he may be right.

But that's stretching the munificence of Lady Luck a bit, if you ask me. There are thousands of self-published writers out there trying to do exactly the same thing Barry is doing. Writers just as talented as he is. But they'll be lucky enough to buy a cup of coffee and a donut. If that much.


Does it come like a thief in the night and decides who she will bestow her graces sight unseen? Or do you make your own luck? If you make your own luck then I'm doing something wrong. Very wrong.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



If you're a writer that's what you need in spades. Not talent. Forget talent. There are, as Carl Sagan used to say about stars--Billions and Billions of talented writers in this universe. Talent is around in abundance. Always will be.

No. You don't need talent to be a successful writer. If you write, or if you're an avid reader, you can list author after author who have a minimal level of talent. But are unbelievably successful as an author.

But luck, pilgrim; luck is something that is fickle. A mistress of deceit. A gambler who plays the game with his (or her?) own set of rules. And you, the writer, have no say in the matter whatsoever. None. Nada. Nyet. Zipola.

Do I sound bitter? Frustrated? Yes Stanley, by god I think you're right.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Putting all your eggs . . . into two baskets

I write. I'm not saying I'm necessarily good at it. Or make a living at it. But I write. I write genre. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Noir. Always wanted to. To be honest the style I use while I write is different. Nuanced along different paths. Since I haven't really found books--and authors--who have consistantly captured my full attention, I thought, "Well hell, I can do better than that!"

All good writers have to feel that way. Right?

So what does this rambling tirade have to do with eggs and two baskets? Here's the tie-in; over the years I've had my bumps and bruises in the literary world. Lit agents who promised the moon, and instead, threw your material in trash can, publishers who " . . love your work, baby!" and reneged on their promises. Agents who actually just disappear--I mean simply disappear off the face of the earth--taking manuscripts with them.

Bumps and bruises.

So I've decided. No one group, agency, publisher, or witches' coven, is gonna handle ALL of my material. And forget literary agents. They've certainly forgotten me.

Two small publishers are bringing my material out. One we've already talked about. Trestle Press. I'm happy as a lark about it. They've got a character of mine called Smitty. Nice guy. Well, maybe nice just before he cuts your throat. They're also have an art thief who has the unlucky talent in getting involved in other people's homicides. A character by the name of Jake Renolds. And finally they have a warrior-monk . . . and an accomplished wizard . . .who, shall we say, carries a heavy emotional/psychological burden on his shoulders.

The second publishing house is Untreed Reads. An epublisher only. Already established. Already well known. Very good at what they do. They put their ebooks in a huge, huge market. They've got Turner Hahn and Frank Morales. Two homicide detectives who are, we might attribute . . . a little unusual in their investigative techniques. And in their personas. Their next book, 'A Taste of Old Revenge' is aimed for June. Or at least, the last time I heard, it was.

Lots of eggs. Two baskets.

And waiting to see the results.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Trestle Press

There's a new publisher out there. Trestle Press. So new the paint is still wet on their door sign. So new their web site isn't up yet. But they're exciting in a way. They've got a vision of expanding their product vigorously in both the epub market and the traditional publishing venue.

So happens that I am one of their authors. They have two original works of mine and I collaborated with three other writers in their stable to do an extended short story called Hunter.

I am also happy in the way they're paying their authors. Of course there is no up front money. Not coming from a start up firm like this. And usually not from a epublisher, regardless. But what you get for the net is substantial. What REALLY is the kicker for me are their efforts to market my material. They do the marketing. Not so much me. And as we all know, that's the bug-a-boo for so many writers: the Marketing. Wracking our brains, spending money, trying to figure out how to get our names out there in front of the GAZILLIONS of other writers so we're recognized and 'discovered' is a real pain in the ass. I'm happy someone else is doing this.

'Cause all I want to do is write.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So I've reactivated this blog.

So I've reactivated this blog and hope to share some brillance and levity--along with, obviously, words of wisedom--concerning everything that a writer of genre novels would generally concern himself with. Which, in all honest, would be just about everything.

Yeah. I write genre. And enjoy it. I would enjoy it more if I could make some money at it.

Read on! Find something called 'A Dish Best Served Cold.' The first of two novellas with the same above title.

Send a reply. Tell me what you think.