To those of you who congratulated me on my new venture, I sincerely return thanks. For those who wished to know what my novels were about, read on.
Back in 2006, I learned about a writer's conference slated for February of 2007, “Love is Murder” held annually in Chicago. Writers' conferences are a great place to meet people and learn from others about writing, publishing and maybe a chance to greet and speak with a nationally known writer. At the 2007 meeting the featured author was Muscatine's own Max Allan Collins.
At the time I was finishing Beta and Night Shadows and sending them out to agents for acceptance. Love Is Murder offered a chance to pitch the story ideas to the agents who were there looking for new authors and new stories. In the writers' group I, at the time, was involved in, we enlisted the aid of Des Moines lawyer/author Mike Manno (www.mikemanno.com) for guidance on how to create our pitches.
The term 'elevator pitch' is pretty common among those in the know. Basically, the pitch should last as long as it takes an elevator to drop from the top floor to the bottom floor of an average sized building. Obviously if you're in the Sears Tower, it might last a little longer. Usually a little less than a minute, give or take some seconds.
So Kim McKinney and I, the only two who were ready to pitch stories at the time, formulated the pitches and practiced, and practiced, and practiced. Memorization is key, easy flowing speaking is key, making sure the agent has a good sense of the plot and main character.
At the conference I was able to pitch to all of the agents present as I did with the Killer Nashville conference earlier this year. 2007 met with subsequent rejections but I was fortunate this year to be accepted by Echelon Press (www.echelonpress.com).
So, Beta and Night Shadows. Here are the pitches used which should give you a little taste of what's to come.
Genre- Mystery, Private Detective
Private Investigator Mallory Petersen, a fourth degree black belt with her own taekwondo school in Des Moines, Iowa, splits her time between teaching martial arts and her often inane cases. When she accepts a case to find Cheryl McGee’s kidnapped eight year old daughter, Mallory is pulled into the dark underworld of child pornography. The trail soon leads to the Quad Cities, where Mallory partners with an officer from the Special Case Squad. Mallory discovers that there’s more to the girls disappearance than her client let on. Adult readers will find grave issues tempered by humorous scenes. This is a series concept, the rough draft of another story is complete.
Genre-Paranormal Murder Mystery
Harry Reznik, a cynical hardworking homicide detective with a newly pregnant wife reluctantly partners with federal agent Lori Campisi to solve a string of gruesome homicides in the Des Moines, Iowa metro. Campisi is a stolid, almost emotionless member of a special FBI department dedicated to pursuing cases outside the mainstream. She convinces Harry that thee murders are being committed by Shadow Creatures-malevolent beings let loose in our dimension through the powerful magic of an ancient book. After finding the book, Reznik and Campisi, with the help of a university professor, risk everything to send the Shadow Creatures back to their own dimension. The story traces not only Reznik’s and Campisi’s investigation, but also Campisi’s connection to the book: her father’s obsession with the tome, her own memory loss before the age of twelve, and her eventual discovery of her lost years through her father’s journal. This is the first story in a series, the first draft of the second story is one-third complete.
When you pitch ideas to the agents they will ask questions about your story. It's their way of getting to know a little more about the story and about the author. If the author doesn't know his/her story, why should an agent bother to continue?
The question I received by a couple of the agents (and previously by fellow writers' group members) was in regards to Beta. They wanted to know why I chose to have a female protagonist, me being male. To answer that I have to provide a little history.
I started writing mysteries years ago using a character named Sam P. Peterson. He lived in the Quad Cities and was part of the East Moline police department. (Made sense since I had lived in East Moline until '75 and still have family in the area). Then in 1988, waiting to find a job after college graduation, I went to work for a guy in Danville and we became good friends. He was-and still is-into comic books and it was our dream to write our own. I could write, he could illustrate. So I created a character called Nightshadow, a.k.a. Sam P. Petersen (I changed the O to an E because I worked with a Petersen when I was in Kewanee for a time. Unfortunately, that dream didn't pan out.
When I became more familiar with Des Moines and was interested in setting a private investigator in that metropolis I didn't feel right using Sam again. So I changed sexes and brought in Mallory. Plus, I was getting heavily involved with taekwondo at the time and was amazed and impressed by the number of women involved and soon came to honor the high ranking women in my organization (www.ataonline.com). Because of the prolific number of females in martial art, this also made sense to have a woman protagonist.
Actually, it's been fun with Mallory. She's shown me some things that I wouldn't have expected and I've also had to temper her emotions and soften her character as needed. She is currently having her sequel Alpha, rewritten.
Night Shadows evolved from a Coast To Coast AM radio show. (www.coasttocoastam.com) about shadow creatures. I thought what a wonderful 'monster' to put into a story. Harry Reznik came easily to mind and Lori Campisi was fun to write about. They are currently involved in a sequel tentatively entitled Days of Wine and Ghosts. The first draft is complete but I will need to tweak the ending a bit.
Feel free to email me questions regarding either story and I'll do my best to answer them to your satisfaction.