Doesn't leap tall buildings in a single bound; he has to take a running start

Novelist risks life because he forgot to backup his work

novelist-burning-buildingGideon Hodge, a 35-year-old novelist, playwright, and actor, sprinted past New Orleans firefighters into a burning to save his laptop. He had stored two completed novels on the computer. “Anybody that’s ever created art, there’s no replacing that,” he told The New Orleans Advocate after he made it out of the burning building safely. “It’s got pretty much my life’swork.”

While I admire Hodge’s dedication to his work, I wonder about his common sense. No backup?

I use Carbonite, which automatically backs up every working file on my computer every day. It costs $59.99 a year for the basic service–cheap when compared to risking your life.

Does coffee help creativity?

coffee-cupI remember a scene from an old television show. The private investigator met his client in a coffee shop. He had met her at a coffee shop each time he had something to report. Each time he ordered coffee. Finally, her curiosity got the best of her and she asked, “How much coffee do you drink every day?”

He answered, “Fifteen or twenty cups.”

The client said, “Doesn’t it keep you awake?”

Our hero said, “It helps.”

I’m like Honoré de Balzac, the early 19th century French author, who said (translated by Robert Onopa): Coffee is a great power in my life… [It] sets the blood in motion and stimulates the muscles; it… chases away sleep, and gives us the capacity to engage a little longer in the exercise of our intellects.

Balzac is said to have drunk up to 50 cups a day, although his cups were much smaller than today’s mugs. Best-selling author Lee Child reportedly drinks 30 cups a day.

Compared to these writers, my coffee habit is modest. I am usually at my desk by 8:00 a.m., having risen at 5:30, read three newspapers, and breakfasted with my wife. My first cup of breakfast coffee is the normal high-octane stuff to knock the cobwebs off my brain. Years ago a doctor told me after a routine physical that too much caffeine is bad for people, so for the rest of the day I restrict caffeine to times when the cobwebs come back.

After working in my study until about 9:30, I start to feel the cobwebs lurking in the far corners of my mind. Bang! Back to high-octane coffee—only now, I switch to iced coffee. Over the rest of the day, I’ll have three more iced coffees, occasionally four or five.

I discovered iced coffee in 2004 after Hurricane Frances.

11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 4. 2004, Labor Day weekend: Hurricane Frances moved ashore in Martin County, Florida with sustained winds over 100 mph. The eye passed directly over our house, knocking our two-story screened enclosure into our swimming pool. Fortunately, our townhouse was built to the stronger building codes adopted after Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in 1992. Our home was otherwise intact. Even with underground utilities, our neighborhood electric power was knocked out for four days. (Which is one reason we now live in Lake County, Florida. But that’s another story.) My wife and I had evacuated to Georgia and returned to find our town in need of help.

I am a Volunteer Minister for the Church of Scientology and we worked with the National Guard and the Red Cross to hand out food and water to long lines of victims. The temperature was over 90 degrees in early September with humidity match. Three o’clock in the afternoon, after working in the sun since early morning, I was dissolving into a puddle of sweat and grime. Miraculously, an angel of rescue appeared in the form of a Dunkin’ Donuts panel truck. The Dunkin’ truck pulled into the shopping center parking lot where we were handing out water and ice. The back of the truck was full of huge containers of iced coffee for the volunteers. One sip of that delicious Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee and I felt like I’d had a two-hour nap in an air-conditioned room. It was almost better than sex. Almost.

Ever since then, I’m a big iced-coffee fan.

Another Five-Star Review for Quarterback Trap

Ann Livi Andrews just posted this review on http://www.annliviandrews.com/book-reviews/2016/6/22/quarterback-trap

She made my day. Here it is:

Quarterback Trap – Dallas Gorham

This is a great suspenseful and thrilling mystery that, while geared towards men with the football theme, will keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

To be clear, I am not a football fan, and I very much enjoyed this book. I read it all in one sitting, completely unable to put it down until the plot was resolved.

Gorham’s writing style is easy to follow and he doesn’t bog the reader down with statistics or football-speak that might alienate readers who don’t really follow the sport.

I loved all the characters and thought they were excellently written. Chuck is great as the main character and I can see him starring in future novels, such as Alex Delaware for Jonathan Kellerman, etc.

Even if you’re not a football fan, if you enjoy a good mystery/thriller, then I can definitely recommend this one to you.

Mystery writer Judi Ciance signs her books at Leesburg Art Festival

My friend and fellow mystery writer, Judi Ciance, was asked for the second year in a row to exhibit at the Leesburg Art Festival on March 12 and 13th.

Judi provided this picture
Here she is at her booth.

Judi has written four books in her Casey Quinby series:

Empty Rocker

James’ life was falling apart. How did he allow a sixteen-year-old girl to infiltrate his world? She wanted commitment. It wasn’t going to happen. It was Sunday night. He got home in time to grab a beer before the eleven o’clock news. A young girl, yet to be identified, was found lying face down by the edge of the Scenic Highway … a presumed hit-and-run. He didn’t need a name. He’d left no clues that would lead back to him. It was quick and clean … the way he’d planned it. The name-plate on her desk read, Casey Quinby. She was the head investigative reporter for the Cape Cod Tribune. She worked hand-in-hand with police departments from one end of the Cape to the other. Casey was their ‘Kelly Girl’ detective. Her boss gave her free rein to work with the cops, fully knowing she’d get the exclusive. She got to play with the POs, and then got paid to write about it. Last Sunday night, there was a hit-and-run on the Bourne Scenic Highway. For some reason, Casey wasn’t given clearance to mingle with the cops at the scene. Even her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Sam, suggested she step back from this one. Said he’d get in touch with her in a couple of days. Sam was the chief detective in the Bourne Police Department. Imagine telling a reporter, a nosey one at that, to close her eyes and disappear for a few days. Not going to happen. She knew she had to use her Sherlock Holmes’ nose to sniff out well hidden clues – mix them together – and end up with a perfectly assembled table puzzle. EMPTY ROCKER provides the perfect blend of mystery and suspense, coupled with twists and turns, and infused with a bit of romance.

Paint Her Dead

The body of a young girl found tucked away beside a bed in a closed-for-the-season ocean-front cottage… a boyfriend without an alibi… a rich and conniving widow… strangers and lovers caught in the triangle of an unknown identity.

And then came Casey Quinby, considered the ‘Kelly Girl’ investigator for several Cape Cod Police Departments, and her side-kicks, Annie, right-hand to the District Attorney, and Marnie, a recent law school graduate.

After a near-death experience only four months before, Casey promised her boyfriend, Sam, the lead detective in the Bourne PD, that she’d stay clear of dangers reserved for seasoned police officers. He constantly reminded her she was a newspaper reporter, not a PO. But, her accidental encounter with a very dead Jane Doe draws her back into a world of suspense, mystery and intrigue.

The road from Provincetown to Boston is paved with twists, turns, unexpected dangers and hidden secrets waiting to be uncovered.

Caught with a Quahog

Casey Quinby, head investigative reporter for the Cape Cod Tribune had worked with the Barnstable Police Department on their cold case backlog in the past, generating a high success rate in uncovering new details allowing the PD to reopen several cases. When she expressed an interest in working on another cold case, the Chief jumped at the chance for her to examine the Mary Kaye Griffin murder file.

Chief Lowe was a personal friend of Mary Kaye’s and was haunted by the lack of evidence gathered to solve her murder. Against his approval, but because of department policy, it had been classified a cold case five years ago.

According to the reports in the evidence box, the husband, Brian Griffin, made the 911 call from their home to report the murder. When the police responded to the 42 Shady Brook Lane address, he was nowhere to be found … vanished into thin air. He immediately became the primary person of interest. The investigation that ensued didn’t produce any evidence implying anyone other than the husband.

A dead end case filed in the bowels of the police station was about to resurface.

Bones … boats … and bullets come together to create a strange trio.

And her latest book—

A Tale of Two Lobsters

A Falmouth fishmonger is found dead in one of his lobster tanks. The Medical Examiner determined Rocco Deluca was electrocuted when he slipped, accidentally grabbed a live electrical cord and fell into the tank that was partially filled with water.

Casey Quinby—now Casey Quinby, Private Investigator—is hired by Rocco’s niece to look into his death. Bella Deluca doesn’t think it was an accident. The ‘fish-market-caper’ is Casey’s first case since leaving her position as head investigative reporter for the Cape Cod Tribune.

A classic who dun it—a disgruntle family member, a dissatisfied customer, a complete stranger just passing by—or could it have been a suicide triggered by the loss of his wife. Rocco had made the decision to close the market. Without Rita by his side, his get-up-and-go, got up and left. His life had taken a turn. It was time to retire—but how …. by accidental death …. by suicide …. or by murder.

A tangled web of deceit, secrets and lies. If only the lobsters could talk, what a tale they could tell.

 

Judi’s books are filled with local color from Cape Cod. Her fans are always after to her to keep writing more Casey Quinby stories.

What’s in a name? Day of the Tiger

This whole recent kerfuffle about Donald Trump re-tweeting a Mussolini quote is hogwash. Of course, a lot of the so-called “controversies” the mainstream media create are hogwash, so that’s nothing new.

The quote was supposed to be “It is better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a sheep.” I don’t know if Mussolini ever said it or not, but the quotation is a lot older than Mussolini. The original quote is “It is better to live for one day as a tiger that to live for a thousand years as a sheep,” and it is a Tibetan proverb.

I first saw the quotation last year painted on a construction fence at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The fence surrounded the area where Disney is building the Avatar section of the park. I was there with two of my grandchildren and having a wonderful time. I saw the quote and loved it. It sounded so… Disney that I figured the Disney people had created it. It was just too, too perfect to be authentic.2016-03-11 Day of The Tiger-smallWeb

 

When I got home, I looked it up online and discovered it was a real honest-to-God Tibetan Proverb. The proverb inspired a whole series of “what if…” thoughts that unfolded into the plot of my latest thriller, Day of the Tiger.

I hope you  reading Day of the Tiger as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Book Titles Should Send Useful Clues to Readers

It’s been said that you can’t tell a book by its cover. That’s hogwash. (I would have used an earthier expression starting with a B, but this is a family blog.) In the real world of real buyers, most people form their first opinion about a book by its cover. While I enjoy the creative process of writing a book and telling a compelling story, I also try to make a good living doing it. Sales in the marketplace are a good measure of how much people like my work. So I want to sell books—lots of books, thousands of books.

My book covers and titles send important messages to potential buyers who are considering my books. You, the reader, may invest five or ten hours to read a book. Your time has a value, and you’re gambling more than the purchase price when you buy my books.

One of the challenging aspects of marketing any book is to choose a title that people will click on. I want my titles to say, “Yes! That looks interesting. I want to learn more about this book.” My books are only available on the internet. On the internet, people don’t read; they scan. I can’t afford to make you, the buyer, work to figure out the meaning of my title. I have to grab you quickly, or you’ll move on to some other writer.

I want my titles to be short, but I want you to instantly understand what my books are about.

For example, I wrote my first novel using the working title of The Accidental Heiress. Bad idea: Too many friends told me that it sounded like a romance novel. One of my sisters-in-law reads a couple of romance novels a week. Now I would love to tap into a market that deep and rich, but I prefer to write mysteries and thrillers. I went back to the drawing board and brainstormed new titles. I even surveyed a few of my fellow writers and readers (including my sister-in-law).Six_Murders-smallWeb I selected Six Murders Too Many. That tells the reader that this is a mystery. It also says that it has lots of action. And the cover design with the burning house is a real attention-grabber. If I had gone with my original title, it would probably have been a dud seller.

 

 

 

 

My second novel, Double Fake, Double Murder 2016-03-11 DoubleFake-smallWebwas originally going to be titled just Double Fake. A title search on Amazon revealed that there were two other books with “double fake” in the title. They were both about soccer. So I added “double murder” to the title. Now anybody can tell that this is a mystery, not a soccer guide. And I love the double outline of two bodies on the cover. Mike Butler, my cover designer, came up with that one. Great idea, Mike!

 

 

Quarterback Trap, the third Carlos McCrary novel, was so obvious that the title almost selected itself. QB_Trap-smallWebThe star quarterback of the upcoming Super Bowl game has his fiancée kidnapped by mobsters who have a huge bet on the game. The star quarterback felt trapped. Duh… The title was a piece of cake. And the cover of a gun over-shadowing a football stadium tells a great story by itself.

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Friends was a tough choice. DF-smallWebI’m still not crazy about the title, but at least the word “danger” tells the buyer that this is a thriller. If you think of better title, let me know. The cover image shows a key scene from early in the book that starts the whole thriller on its whirlwind roller-coaster ride to the finish.

In my next blog I’ll cover my latest book, Day of the Tiger.

Inside the black tent (where the magic happens)

I just sent my fifth novel Day of the Tiger to the editor.

I had been chained to my desk, pounding my keyboard until my fingernails bled, for virtually the entire month of January in order to finish the manuscript by the January 31 deadline. This outrageously tight deadline was impoblack tentsed by the harshest taskmaster I’ve ever slaved under–me.  I unlocked the door to my office (where all the magic happens) only when I emerged for another caffeine fix or the occasional crust of stale bread with crunchy peanut butter and raspberry-jalapeno jelly. Then I would tell myself, “Eat fast, then get back to work.” I pounded out between 2,000 and 4,000 words most days, working from about 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Should be available in March. Egad! That’s next month!

I write for three reasons: First, it’s a lot of fun to create an entire world with people, buildings, climate, cities, politics and so forth, all from my own goofball mind. Second, I like to make the world a better place by giving people something entertaining and uplifting. A place where the good guys win, right triumphs, and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. Ah, if only the world were really that way all the time. Third, I hope to make a pot full of money from my writing.

People often ask where I get my ideas.Some people think that a successful writer comes up with a good idea, then goes into a black tent, does some magic, and emerges later with a well-crafted, entertaining book for them to read.

Creating the idea is the easy part.

If all it took to write a good book was to have a good idea, then anybody could do it. That’s like saying “Anyone with a set of golf clubs can play on the PGA or LPGA Tour.” It is true that anyone can play golf. In fact, I played nine holes earlier this week. But not just anyone can play golf well. There are a gazillion duffers like me. We hack around from rough to bunker to lake and eventually get the little white ball (or in my case, the little optic yellow ball) in the hole. But there are precious few players like my fellow Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth. These men and women look at par in their rear-view mirror while they blaze their way around the course with the skills to make it look oh, so, easy. Anyone who’s ever played golf knows that it’s a lot harder than it looks.

Writing is the same as playing golf. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can write and publish a book. And hundreds of thousands of people have done so. It doesn’t even cost anything. So it’s true that anyone and everyone can write. But to write well Ah, that’s another thing.

Having a good idea for a plot is about ten percent of what’s needed to write a good book. The other ninety percent is to tell that story in a way that entertains the reader and keeps him or her wanting to read more books by the talented author. Think of Robert B. Parker, Robert A. Heinlein, Mickey Spillane, Agatha Christie, and John D. MacDonald of the fiction world. And those are just a few of the great, but unfortunately dead, ones whom I admire. I didn’t mention any living authors because I have so many favorites and I wouldn’t want to inadvertently leave anyone out. Thousands of raving fans would buy and read everything these fiction giants wrote. I hope someday I can earn half the fan loyalty these men and women earned.

Inside the black tent

I’m going to lift the wall of the black tent and show you how I made the magic happen with my most recent attempt at literary immortality, The Day of the Tiger.

My first draft followed the principal of “Dump it on the page and get the basics of the story right.” I met a fellow writer who wore a tee-shirt that said, “I don’t care if it’s crap; just get it on the page.” That’s my motto because you can’t improve a story that’s not written. Until you have a completed story, you don’t have a product–not even a bad product. Some famous writer whose name escapes me once said, “Every good novel began as a lousy first draft.”

In this case, my lousy first draft ran 77,787 words. That took about four solid weeks chained to my desk.

I finished the first draft, patted myself on the back, admired this work of genius for about three seconds, then plunged into the second draft.

To write the second draft, I read the first draft aloud to see how the words sounded. I know that you don’t move your lips when you read. But even when you read silently, you hear in your mind how the words sound. I want my words to sound well in the reader’s head. I read the first draft aloud and stopped when something didn’t flow just right. I made the changes to the draft and kept reading. That took two days to read, change, and create the second draft.

The second draft ran 79,809 words. That means that I had to add about 2,000 more words to make the words flow smoothly.

And, yes, I did get hoarse reading aloud for over twelve hours.

To write the third draft, I ran the second draft through a piece of software called Smart Edit, available from Bad Wolf Software. Smart Edit is the best fifty bucks I ever spent, if you don’t count the money I spent on my first date with the woman who is now my wife. Smart Edit looks for things like overused adverbs, repeated phrases, misused words (such as their when you mean there), clichés, redundancies, proper nouns (to make sure I don’t call a character Monty one time and Marty the rest of the time), and so forth. One real-life catch: There is one setting where my fearless hero Carlos McCrary drops off the ransom for the kidnapping victim. In one chapter I called it “Fisherman’s Pier” and in another chapter I called it “Fishermen’s Pier.” You might think that’s a nit-picky difference, but excellence in writing is a game of inches.And if you were the reader who noticed the inconsistency, it could affect your opinion of the quality of my work overall. Perish the thought.

The third draft had 78,626 words and took another two days.

The fourth draft was a bitch. It took just over a week to go through my “List of words to restrict use of.” It’s a list of over fifty words or parts of words that writers sometimes overuse: about, almost, also, anyway, can or could, get, going or going to, etc. See my blog of How to be a better writer–words to avoid. That original list had only 41 items on it. Now I have over fifty.

That draft wound up with 74,216words.

Then I print the fourth draft, sit in my easy chair, and read it just like you would (except I have a ballpoint pen in my hand). That was 211 pages of 8-1/2 by 11 paper. I discovered some parts in an earlier chapter than I moved to a later chapter when the flow of the action made more sense. Those corrections took another two days and resulted in the fifth draft, which had 74,166 words.

That’s the one I sent to my editor.

A word or two about my editor, Marsha Butler: Marsha makes me a better writer. Yes, she does line edits like any other editor, but that’s not all. She also reads the book. She has opinions on what works, what doesn’t, and how to make my manuscript better. Every writer should be lucky enough to find an editor like Marsha. Her website is butlerink.com. Check it out.

It’s not magic after all

So it’s not just getting a good idea and waving a magic wand. It’s hard work, sweat, pacing the floor, taking a break to let my mind unclench, and a lot more. Yes, my mind clenches after a few hours of uninterrupted writing. Thank goodness for lunch and coffee breaks.

This reader made my day. Here’s an email a reader sent me recently

Subject: DANGEROUS FRIENDS

Hi Dallas,
A couple of months ago, whilst on holiday in Florida, I was given a copy of your book, Quarterback Trap. Normally, I do not read “fiction” – preferring Biographies, Auto Biographies and reference books in relation to various sports, hobbies and interests that I have.

However, being on holiday and with time to kill, the sun shining and a cold beer, I started to read the book and found it so gripping that I was unable to put it down. What staggered me the most was the way that the theme of the book moved from one scenario to another without the loss of interest and the technical input of the author on so many subjects must have been immense. It was the first work of fiction that I had read for very many years.

Having very recently enjoyed a holiday in Dubai and Singapore, I deliberately researched the internet for a further book by yourself and decided to obtain and read Dangerous Friends. Once again, I found this book so gripping that I could not put it down. Dallas, I wish you well with your writing and intend to obtain further copies of your books in the near future.
With very best wishes to a successful writing career.

Frank Cottle,
Bath, England

David’s Baldacci’s The Guilty is another worthy addition to his great library

The Guilty is the fourth novel in the Will Robie series. I haven’t yet read the first three, but, after reading this one, I intend to read the others.

David Baldacci is a master story-teller. The intricate plot of The Guilty involves secrets, betrayals, attempted murder, dark secrets from the distant past—in short, all the goodies that readers have come to expect from Baldacci. And he delivers in full measure.

One slight thing I found annoying is the large number of minor characters and one sub-plot (involving one of Robie’s high school football teammates) that did not add to the overall novel. If this one is ever adapted to a movie, a few of the minor characters will be combined or eliminated for a tighter story.

Despite that hiccup, I give The Guilty five stars.

David Baldacci’s new thriller The Guilty is a winner

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Dallas Gorham (left) congratulates David Baldacci on his new book The Guilty

A few days ago, I attended a speech and book-signing by best-selling author David Baldacci at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. The speech was part of a book tour promoting his new thriller in the Will Bobie series, The Guilty. Like most of the over 200 people in attendance, I bought a copy to add to the other seven Baldacci books in my personal library. I’m only 136 pages into The Guilty so far, but I know already that it’s another winner for David Baldacci. As soon as I finish the book, I’ll post a review here on my blog.

David was funny, approachable, informative, and thoroughly delightful. He spoke for more than a half-hour to a room full of obvious Baldacci fans and then answered questions for another ten or fifteen minutes. I could tell from the questions that the other attendees had ready many, many of David’s over thirty novels. Then David signed books for another half-hour for everyone who wanted an autograph. Some, like me, even brought Baldacci books from home. He was kind enough to sign three of my favorites. He posed for pictures with anyone who wanted a  photo, and he personalized his book-signings. (He signed mine, “To Dallas, a fellow writer, Enjoy: David Baldacci.”) He took the time for everyone and did not rush.

David was a true gentlemen and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him.

I am happy to say that I have read over a dozen of David’s books, starting years ago before I became a novelist. Once I started writing, I have kept the Baldacci books which I buy in my personal library.