Saturday, December 13, 2014


Some days are better than others, especially when an email praising an old book—something that does not often happen—arrives. Yesterday the following came in from Oklahoma City:

"This brief note brings you a word of thanks for sharing your cross country flying adventure in Flight of the Gin Fizz.

"I first read the book in 1999 when as a new pilot I was grounded throughout a harsh winter in the upper mid-west. Again the following year, I borrowed it once more from the local library and soothed my winter-imprisoned aviation soul.  This past summer, I came across a copy being sold by one of the aviation booksellers at Oshkosh.  I immediately snatched it up, and have again traveled with you in your beautiful C-150.

"Thank you, Henry, for documenting the great joy that comes only from flying, and for sharing your wonderful journey. May one ask, do you still have the Gin Fizz?

"Here's wishing you tailwinds!

"With appreciation,

"Scott Dorsey"

My Cessna 150, named Gin Fizz in honor of Cal Rodgers' Vin Fiz, the first airplane to fly across the United States in 1911, was sold in 2009 after I had a heart attack, but there's still a photograph of her on my office wall.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pub date now fixed . . .

. . . for Tracking the Beast. Its publisher, Five Star Mysteries, informs me that the novel's publication date is December, 2015. That might mean books will be available in late November, just in time for Christmas a year from now.

Meanwhile, here's a recent Mention in Dispatches. (The pub dates given in the last paragraph are incorrect and were my mistake during the interview.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Second draft finished and sent out

To my considerable surprise I wound up the second draft of The Riddle of Billy Gibbs yesterday, only a week after finishing the first iteration. Usually it takes me six weeks to two months of rewriting between drafts. In this case, however, it seems that the first draft was pretty close to what presumably will be the complete novel. That's a first at my house. At least I think so.

The small corps of reader-critics to whom I send my second drafts, however, probably will have different ideas (including objections) that I'll have to address in the third and final draft.

It would be nice to think that after six novels I'm finally getting the hang of mystery writing.

But . . .

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First draft done!

This morning I completed the first draft of The Riddle of Billy Gibbs, the sixth Steve Martinez novel. It came in at 65,600 words and by the time I'm done with the second draft (which will go out to the reading corps for their criticisms) it may approach 70,000.

The problem is that the second half of the novel is mostly breakneck plotting. It needs some supporting furniture—observations on character, setting and culture—to give it substance.

But that shouldn't be too hard to find. Upper Michigan is rich in history and memorable folks.

My target for the second iteration is mid-December.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bringing things up to date

Tracking the Beast, the fifth Steve Martinez novel, is deep into production at Five Star Mysteries, and I expect to see the jacket art as well as copy-edited manuscript later this month.

Meanwhile, the sixth mystery has passed the 200-page mark and is nearing the end. Just two chapters to go, and I'm hoping the first draft will be done by Thanksgiving.

 I expect the length of the first draft to come up a bit short of the 65,000-word minimum, but I will need to go back and flesh out a number of characters as well as give more detail to some of the action. That ought to bring the final word count to close to 70,000.

And No. 6 now has a working title: The Riddle of Billy Gibbs.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Today I finished assembling ancillary materials for Tracking the Beast, the upcoming Steve Martinez mystery, and sent them (together with the developmental-edited manuscript) to my publisher, Five Star Mysteries.

The ancillaries were jacket copy, catalog copy, review quotes for the back cover, an excerpt from the novel designed to whet reader interest, and a detailed synopsis of the action for the jacket designer. All this stuff used to be done in-house at conventional publishers, but Five Star aims its wares at the library and online markets, not bookstores. It expects its authors to be more involved in the publishing process than most others are.

Word quickly came back that Tracking the Beast will go into production on Monday. The manuscript will be copy edited, the interior design of the book done, and a jacket created. Soon I'll have a publication date.

Meanwhile, here's the excerpt I plucked from the manuscript:

The jefe nodded. “Okay, Diego. Do it.”
Diego dragged the bundle to the lip of the hatch and with a firm shove dropped it into the void. A short but sharp clang rose from the steel of the hopper bottom twelve feet below.
That’s not dope, Diego thought. That would have been a thud. That’s something else. And I think I know what it is.
“That did sound funny,” the man said, as if echoing Diego’s dismay. “Better take a look down there and make sure everything’s okay.”
The jefe handed Diego the penlight. “Go on, have a look.”
Reluctantly Diego took the penlight and pointed it into the dusty interior of the car, leaning into the open hatch to see better.
“Don’t see nothing,” he said. “Wait a minute. Paper broke open. Something leak.”
As cold metal suddenly pressed into the back of his neck, Diego realized the truth, and with that epiphany his world exploded in a flash of brilliant white.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Catalog copy

The fifth Steve Martinez novel, Tracking the Beast, has survived its second pass through the hands of an editor—this time, the developmental editor (the first was the acquiring editor)—and is awaiting a third pass, this time the tender ministrations of a copy editor. Meanwhile, I am charged with producing some other stuff, such as copy for the catalog. Here is a draft:

"When the skeleton of a little girl tumbles out of a hopper car in Omaha, Porcupine County Sheriff Steve Martinez knows he has a troublesome case on his hands. The car had sat for years on a railroad siding deep in the woods of the sheriff’s bailiwick.

"The case gets even more vexing when three more bodies turn up at the siding. Two are young girls, but one is a grown man shot in the back of the head.

"After Steve and his comrades sweat the initial spadework, the heavy-footed FBI moves in, as it always does in cases of child abduction and murder.

"The Feds focus on a single Unsub they think is both rapist and killer. But when more adult bodies turn up in hopper cars elsewhere, Steve deduces that the killer—or killers—may have hired someone else to dispose of them. Catching him, Steve thinks, will lead to the truth.

"With the help of state troopers, deputies, tribal police, game wardens, the Ontario Provincial Police and even a couple of Detroit mobsters, Steve doggedly goes on the track of what the cops come to call “the Beast”—although the FBI warns him to be careful not to tread on the Feds’ toes.

"This intricate police procedural, set in the beautiful semiwilderness of Upper Michigan, involves not only a high-tech chase around Lake Superior but also the revival of a clever World War II military deception.

"In the end Steve gets his man—and an unsettling surprise."

Readers, I hope this whets your interest.