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James R. Winter

Sunday, October 23, 2005


bleekerbooks: Graham Powell
briannthorntonn: Brian Thornton
dpwhite237: Dave White
g_so: Gerald So
jamesrwinter: James R. Winter
macavityabc: Bill Crider
megan_powell_net: Megan Powell
mysdawg2003: Aldo Calcagno
rkramerjr: Rob Kramer

jamesrwinter: How've you been, Bill?

macavityabc: Doing fine. Tell us something about that November you have planned.

jamesrwinter: I hope I can get something resembling an outline down, because the story changes on me from hour to hour.

g_so: You're working on the fourth book now, Jim?

jamesrwinter: This will be my fifth. #4 just came back from Florida with some interesting red ink.

g_so: I see.

jamesrwinter: Kepler #4 is outlined with three chapters.

macavityabc: Have you figured out exactly how many writing days you'll have in November, or is that too scary?

jamesrwinter: I'm thinking maybe 26 days. I have a move and a couple travel days, plus two final book signings for NCS.

briannthorntonn: Hi all. Hey Winter. Good book.

jamesrwinter: Thanks. How's Seattle, Brian?

g_so: Welcome, Brian.

briannthorntonn: Seattle's great now that I've got the latest non-fiction writing gig off to the development editor for her to play with. And for the moment I can get back to fiction.

jamesrwinter: Sweeeet.

briannthorntonn: Plus I can't recall the last time I sold two pieces in the same month. I'm actually out of shorts and need to work on more. Also still waiting on the contract in the mail from AHMM.

rkramerjr: Hey, Brian, good to meet you.

mysdawg2003: howdy

jamesrwinter: Whuddup, Dawg?

g_so: Brian and Graham Powell have stories in the upcoming issue of Shred of Evidence.

macavityabc: Yeah, when does Shred of Evidence hit the 'net?

briannthorntonn: End of this month.

macavityabc: OK, be sure to remind us again.

rkramerjr: Aldo, good to see you!

mysdawg2003: Is that Rob Kramer?

rkramerjr: Sure is.

g_so: Secret Dead Prize-winning Rob Kramer.

briannthorntonn: Hi rkramer.

rkramerjr: Heck yes :-D That made my day.

jamesrwinter:Yo, Graham!

g_so: Speaking of Graham...

bleekerbooks: Hey hey hey.

mysdawg2003: Grambo

briannthorntonn: Hi Graham. Congratulations on your acceptance in Shred.

bleekerbooks: Why thank you.

mysdawg2003: Who is doing NaNoWri Mo?

jamesrwinter: Moi, of course.

g_so: Are you, Aldo?

mysdawg2003: yep

g_so: good luck.

bleekerbooks: I am so NOT doing it.

macavityabc: I've written books in a month, but never in a specific month. And only for money.

briannthorntonn: I wrote the Lincoln book in two months (the first draft anyway) and that was only 60,000 words. Of course having to do random research on the fly slowed me down.

briannthorntonn: Hi Dave.

dpwhite237: OH what the hell, I couldn't bring this kind of crowd. How's it going guys?

briannthorntonn: I still think Winter's crackers for doing [NaNoWriMo].

macavityabc: A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

rkramerjr: Going good, man, good to see you. And good to see everyone else here, so far this is the biggest chat I've been to.

g_so: yes, this is a pretty big turnout.

bleekerbooks: I just remembered 5 minutes ago.

g_so: Questions for Jim, anyone?

briannthorntonn: Winter, how extensively did you outline NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN?

jamesrwinter: I did a ten-page outline about a year before I started on it. The final product looks nothing like the outline.

briannthorntonn: How about the final outline?

jamesrwinter: There was only one outline.

briannthorntonn: ok.

rkramerjr: ?

briannthorntonn: ?

g_so: Aldo had a question, but he's having connection problems. Go ahead for now, Rob.

rkramerjr: Jim, how did you go about developing Nick as a character? Did you have him fully developed in your mind when you went about writing, or did you kind of discover who and how he was as you went along?

jamesrwinter: I discovered him as I went along. I'd done a little work on it before I wrote my first story about him ("Race Card"), then fleshed him out as I went along.

g_so: Go ahead, Brian.

briannthorntonn: Consider this the "Chandler" question.

jamesrwinter: Heh.

g_so: uh-oh.

mysdawg2003: I'm back

g_so: Brian's question currently.

g_so: after Brian, Aldo.

briannthorntonn: Is Kepler your alter ego? As a follow up, if he's not to a large extent, which authors do you feel indebted to as precursors down this path? Bear in mind that I have my signed copy of NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN right here and handy as a reference!

jamesrwinter: There's a lot of me in Kepler, but I wouldn't say he's my alter ego. As for authors, when I wrote this, I was thinking quite a bit of Chandler and a little bit of Dennis Lehane.

g_so: Go ahead, Aldo.

mysdawg2003: I have been following your blog and you recently talked about plot holes that you can drive a car through. Can these be avoided or is it better to fix them as the story progresses?

g_so: Welcome, Megan.

megan_powell_net: Hullo.

rkramerjr: Megan Powell, pleasure to meet you.

jamesrwinter: Megan!

megan_powell_net: Actually, I'm just a Turing machine.

g_so: :)

bleekerbooks: You wish.

megan_powell_net: But rather more interesting than the real Megan. So, what's up? Has the discussion completely degenerated yet?

briannthorntonn: Hi Megan. Thanks for accepting my story "Glycerine" for Shred. It's a real honor.

jamesrwinter: Depends on the story. This one coming up has to be outlined, so it's good to spot these sort of things ahead of time. Makes rewrites less painful.

g_so: Aldo's question currently, then the mic is up for grabs.

g_so: Type a ? and I'll call on you.

rkramerjr: I actually just e-mailed you Megan :-P Or rather, Shred of Evidence.

briannthorntonn: ?

g_so: Go ahead, Brian.

mysdawg2003: ?

briannthorntonn: Jim: how many of your other books are being published by QS. And don't you have an agent now? Did your success with NORTHCOAST help you in the quest for one?

jamesrwinter: Two more. SECOND HAND GOODS is all over but the printer's proof. BAD RELIGION is making final rounds in beta. And that's it for Kepler for a little while.

g_so: Aldo next, after Brian's follow-up.

jamesrwinter: NCS helped me land one, but the communication wasn't the best. So I decided to start over with someone else once this summer's project is in presentable shape.

g_so: Go ahead, Aldo.

mysdawg2003: Talk about your trials and tribulations of promoting NCS

jamesrwinter: Well, at this level, we get treated shabbily by our distributor, and QS is shotgun wedded to Lightning Source (Again, because of our distributor, who owns them.)

bleekerbooks: ?

jamesrwinter: So that's made things difficult. Still, I was able to hire PJ Nunn to help me out, so that's really helped.

dpwhite237: ?

mysdawg2003: ?

g_so: Go ahead, Graham, once Jim has finished. Then Dave, then Aldo.

jamesrwinter: Go ahead, Graham.

bleekerbooks: Speaking of distribution, is the distributor more important than the publisher? It seems like good distribution is so important.

briannthorntonn: ?

jamesrwinter: It is. At this level, you want to look at connections, who they signed, how reliably they paid. Of the six presses on my original short list, only Quiet Storm and Poison Pen still exist. Your best bet's always to hunt for an agent and try for at least a mid-sized press. Still, if you're going to start out at this level, Quiet Storm's one of the better outfits.

g_so: ok, go Dave.

dpwhite237: Let's talk about the actual craft for a moment. Are there certain themes you like to hitch your wagon to when you write? Things you like to explore in your writing?

jamesrwinter: There's a certain level of loyalty that runs through the Kepler books. And the obligatory personal code. But I also try to have my characters slip a little (or a lot, actually). They're definitely not heroes in the classic sense.

dpwhite237: real quick follow up... why is that obligatory?

g_so: Megan dropped offline, I think.

jamesrwinter: With a character like Kepler or any other PI, you have to explain why they're working outside the system. It sure as hell ain't for the money. And why do they get themselves into the trouble they find? Usually it's because something goes against the way they think things ought to be.

g_so: Good answer, I had been skeptical of codes. Go ahead, Aldo.

jamesrwinter: Who was next?

g_so: Aldo, then Brian.

mysdawg2003: What have you learned about or from Kepler that has surprised you? Your wife reads your stuff, is the feedback difficult to take at times?

jamesrwinter: I've learned he's capable of falling down spectacularly. As for Diane's feedback, I've learned to roll with it. Makes it easier to filter and easier to accept some of the harder changes she suggests.

mysdawg2003: Do you find that real life personal circumstances filter in to the writing?

jamesrwinter: Sometimes. How can it not?

briannthorntonn: Jim, when you said, "if you're going to start out at this level," did you mean POD or agentless manuscript hawking? I'm really opposed (personally) to getting involved with POD because a friend of mine paid for printing up front, did all of his own marketing, and sold very few copies of a book which was (to be honest) desperately in need of some editorial re-working or at least guidance. And no, I'm NOT talking about Jim here.

jamesrwinter: Well, first off, I didn't pay to have the book published. POD=self pub is a gross misnomer. However, the technology presents its own issues. Quiet Storm is a legitimate publisher, but they're so small that they're shotgunned to LS, Ingram's POD printer. They did try to go traditional, and Ingram "suggested" they go back to Lightning.

bleekerbooks: You've got to be kidding.

mysdawg2003: Point Blank is POD, right?

jamesrwinter: But when I say at this level, I mean small presses with limited resources. Meaning you don't see your check until after your first quarter of sales. That said, I met a couple of SMP authors who got a worse deal.

rkramerjr: I hate to ask, but what's POD again?

jamesrwinter: Yes, and nobody at PointBlank paid to get published, either.

jamesrwinter: Print on demand.

rkramerjr: Oh okay, thanks.

dpwhite237: ?

jamesrwinter: Not publish. Too many people think all POD is vanity press. It's not.

dpwhite237: In terms of storytelling, what made you decide to take a break from Kepler? How are these next two novels different from what you have been doing with Kepler? I understand that Road Rules is completely different, but why take this break now? Why not keep the train going with Nick?

jamesrwinter: Part of it is publishing. It's hard to take a series to a different publisher. So while #4 is prepped and ready to start, I have to be realistic and plan for the next contract, which will have to be with a bigger press.

dpwhite237: Right... but I asked in terms of storytelling. Was there a reason behind that?

jamesrwinter: With a new series, I wanted to use a different voice, have the protag face different issues. Plus I took a little inspiration from THE WIRE.

dpwhite237: how so?

jamesrwinter: As for ROAD RULES, it's third person, something I haven't done for awhile.

briannthorntonn: ?

jamesrwinter: DEVIL'S DANCE is a more personal story. A lot of what happens to McKagan, the protag, is the result of his family's past and some of it his own self-righteous streak. And despite being a first person story, DEVIL'S DANCE is more of an ensemble piece.

mysdawg2003: ?

bleekerbooks: ?

briannthorntonn: Speaking a writer of at least four fiction books and countless short stories, do you find it difficult to write in the first person? I've heard it said that it's easier to write in the third, but having done both myself, I find that each has its advantages. Which do you prefer and why?

g_so: Currently Brian, then Aldo, then Graham.

g_so: Good q, Brian.

briannthorntonn: Thanks Gerald.

jamesrwinter: First is easier to maintain voice. You're in one person's head for the entire story. But third, I find, makes it easier to pace a story. You can cut out of a scene and a POV and move to something else, especially if a character gets a tad windy.

briannthorntonn: How aobut revovling third person POV?

jamesrwinter: I prefer multiple viewpoint third, again because of the rhythm you can get with it. Dramatic 3rd, like THE MALTESE FALCON, is difficult, though. Go, Aldo.

mysdawg2003: I've noticed that since I've started writing again on a daily basis I gained 10 lbs this month. How to stay healthy as you invest a large portion of your life in writing a novel

bleekerbooks: "Large portion". Hehheh.

g_so: 2 mins official chat time left, but we'll stay as long as Jim is willing.

jamesrwinter: I go for at least a two-mile walk everyday. Since the days have gotten shorter and the weather colder, I've put back on a little weight, but I plan to fight that as well. And I'm at around 279 right now, about 13 pounds over where I want to be at the end of the year.

mysdawg2003: Have you ever tried dictating short notes or sections while exercising?

jamesrwinter: I'll stick around for another half hour.

g_so: Thanks, Jim.

jamesrwinter: Aldo, no. I can't "talk" my stories very well. So excercise is quiet time.

briannthorntonn: I read on the treadmill.

g_so: Go ahead, Graham.

bleekerbooks: Jim, do you see Kepler as more of a "classical" PI, or more of just a regular guy who happens to have that job?

jamesrwinter: I guess he's a classical PI. I've seen him compared to Marlowe and Mike Hammer (from someone who blurbed the second book.) I like to inject elements of noir in there, though.

bleekerbooks: Thanks, Jim. Guys, I gotta run. See you 'round.

jamesrwinter: Later, Graham.

dpwhite237: ?

dpwhite237: When you say elements of noir into your stories, what do you mean?

briannthorntonn: What is Mike Hammer if not noir? Hard boiled?

rkramerjr: I love the friggin' Hammer. And I'd say he's more hardboiled than noir.

g_so: Dave's question is up.

dpwhite237: I really dislike the separation of noir and hardboiled discussion...

mysdawg2003: ditto....give me a good story.

rkramerjr: Amen to that. Still love the Hammer.

jamesrwinter: I mean there's a lot more moral ambiguity to the story than a straight forward hardboiled story. My intention is to write the story first, then worry about how it's classified later. Haven't gotten around to the worry part yet.

dpwhite237: whoa whoa. I completely disagree there. There's moral ambiguity in the best stories, whether or not they are hard boiled or noir. Most stories are about what or why you are doing something. And there-in lies the moral ambiguity.

jamesrwinter: In your average hardboiled story, there are certain lines a protag will not cross. I prefer those lines ot be blurrier than usual.

briannthorntonn: Mike Hammer is a near parody of the PI genre. Unintentional? I suppose. He's a psychopath who makes Carol John Daly's old "Three Gun Terry" look like a choir boy.

mysdawg2003: adios muchacos

jamesrwinter: More Pelecanos than Chandler, though I like Chandler a lot.

briannthorntonn: That's funny, Jim. I liked your book a LOT more than I liked RIGHT AS RAIN, the only Pelecanos I've read. Although I did like his script work on THE WIRE.

dpwhite237: I so disagree. There are always lines a protag will cross whether he wants to or not. Even Spenser--the most moral of the PIs--has crossed the line at times. There's usually a reason why, but he has crossed that line.

g_so: What are you disagreeing with again, Dave?

dpwhite237: That there's moral ambiguity in noir, but not hard boiled.

rkramerjr: Even with something so simple as cheating on Susan, with that reporter in the one novel. Can't remember which one it was.

dpwhite237: or killing the guy in Catskill Eagle in cold blood.

jamesrwinter: A SAVAGE PLACE. And does CATSKILL count?

rkramerjr: Haven't read Catskill yet, unfortunately.

briannthorntonn: It's a good one.

jamesrwinter: A SAVAGE PLACE is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Rob, just picture Ah-Nold as Spenser in CATSKILL.

rkramerjr: Oh, lol. That kinda book, huh?

jamesrwinter: It's... um... different.

g_so: A blockbuster. He was trying for big with Catskill, I think.

rkramerjr: Kinda like the ending to my first Conlon story, "Rhythm of a Blackened Heart", when Conlon storms Zanzibar's home and kills everyone inside. I so need to rewrite that story.

briannthorntonn: Eh, Jim's point is buttressed by Hammett's use of Spade's subjective morality in THE MALTESE FALCON. You're left wondering whether he turns her in more because he doesn't want to be played for a sap, or because he honestly believes that "when your partner gets murdered you're supposed to do something about it."

jamesrwinter: You can debate Spade's motives until the end of time. I think it was both.

briannthorntonn: That's what made it such a compelling ending in 1929. And what makes it such a compelling story 70 years later.

jamesrwinter: But I think Dave and I actually see the same thing from different angles. I simply believe some writers limit their characters by not letting them stray, or, if they do, skimping on the consequences. And I am big on there being consequences to a character's actions.

dpwhite237: My point is moral ambiguity plays a part in all crime stories. And you can't just say that a hard boiled story doesn't have it. Chandler, MacDonald, Hammet, Parker, their characters all at some point wonder if they're doing the right thing and have to decide what to do, which in my eye is moral ambiguity. What is moral and what is not? And separating them into a category of story is wrong, I think.

macavityabc: Gotta go, guys. Enjoyed listening in on this.

dpwhite237: adios Bill.

jamesrwinter: Which goes back to writing the story first and worrying about what it is later.

g_so: Thanks again, Bill.

rkramerjr: See ya, Bill, great meeting you.

jamesrwinter: Later, Bill.

dpwhite237: of course, I understand that. But I worry that you're categorizing at all.

g_so: But you're categorizing with the term hardboiled, Dave.

jamesrwinter: I'm not all that big on categories, actually. But people want pat descriptions whether they're accurate or not.

dpwhite237: And by that I mean, all these books are going to be under the section of crime/mystery... beyond that why categorize.

dpwhite237: And when you get down to the point of hardboiled and noir, it's nitpicking. What I'm saying, Gerald, is there is no real tangible difference between hardboiled and noir, so why categorize that minutely.

jamesrwinter: Well, I wouldn't consider Miss Marple and Patrick Kenzie the same. I'd be more inclined to lump him with Lucas Davenport, though.

briannthorntonn: Maybe Dave's just not all about labels, mannnnn, sort of like Albert Ayler and his 50s era rejection of the categorization of his rebellion against the hard swing and hard bop of his predecessors and contemporaries as "free bop."

briannthorntonn: Lost yet?

briannthorntonn: Good. Because these conversations are fun, but it's sorta silly to bother otherwise.

g_so: I think labels are for the consumer's benefit.

briannthorntonn: Point taken.

g_so: Writers don't see their stories that cut and dried, certainly.

jamesrwinter: Keep in mind it's all generalizations. There's a reason the pre-CATSKILL Spensers are considered classic. Parker said "To hell with what I'm supposed to do."

briannthorntonn: And Agatha Christie wrote some of the nastiest, most cold-blooded stuff ever put down on paper. Including "And Then There Were None"/"Ten Little Indians." That stuff is absolutely noir. Written by the doyenne of "cozie" writers.

jamesrwinter: I want to see Mickey Spillane write a Miss Marple. "Marple's back, and she and her .45 aren't taking anyone's crap in Mickey Spillane's COZY THIS!"

briannthorntonn: I wonder how long it'd take him to write it

dpwhite237: 3 minutes.

briannthorntonn: Seeing as he wrote "I, The Jury" in two weeks.

jamesrwinter: I thought it was over a weekend.

briannthorntonn: It's all apocryphal anyway.

dpwhite237: The Postman Always Rings Twice was over a weekend, I believe... but... now I'm getting drawn in...

briannthorntonn: He's given different answers at diffferent times.

jamesrwinter: Stephen King wrote THE RUNNING MAN in 72 hours. I could never do that. Not with all the Red Bull in England and crack in Over-the-Rhine.

jamesrwinter: Well, gentlemen, I'm going to have to depart these unseemly proceedings. I do have a book to prep.

g_so: Thanks, everyone. I should have the transcript posted in a day or two. Working with a new web development program.

g_so: Thanks again, Jim.

jamesrwinter: Bye everyone.

briannthorntonn: Thanks Jim.


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