Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Keeping a Series Fresh by Dana King

Patti suggested I write about how to keep a series fresh, which is flattering because it implies she thinks my series have remained fresh. (Of course that last comment is pretentious in its assumption she’s read either of the series and has an opinion one way or the other. Such is a writer’s life.) Anyway, with the fifth Nick Forte novel (Bad Samaritan) dropping on January 22 and the fourth Penns River book due out in July, this seemed as good a topic as any.

The short answer is: it’s a balancing act. I wrote the first four Forte books in a row. None sold (though two would earn Shamus nominations) and I have to admit I was about out of story ideas that didn’t seem to cover things about the character I’d done before. I wrote a standalone as a palate-cleanser (Wild Bill) then turned my attention to the semi-fictional town of Penns River, Pennsylvania. Therein lies what is, for me, the secret.

To say a setting is a character in a novel has become hackneyed, and, frankly, it’s bullshit. Locations don’t have crises. Locations don’t have epiphanies. Locations don’t make life and death decisions. They don’t crack jokes. Locations are what they are, and that’s enough. They provide their own obstacles and challenges to the people in the story—the real characters—and much of the story may revolved around what the locations allows or does not. No one writes stories about sugar cane fields in North Dakota.

By choosing three actual small cities as the inspiration for Penns River I opened the door for the ever-changing events in those chosen towns and the surrounding areas to plant seeds in my story garden. I subscribe to the local paper online and copy articles of interest to my hard drive for future consideration. Characters can come and go, as it’s the town that remains constant and gives the readers a touchstone. No one is indispensable—except maybe Ben Dougherty—so the level of tension can remain high. Will Sean Sisler or Rick Neuschwander get out of this tight scrape? Probably, but don’t be too quick to assume.

Having the second series to go to takes much of the pressure off of Forte. Bad Samaritan was written more than five years after its predecessor in the series. The idea for the story came to me and I wrote it when it was ready. It’s the first time I truly understood what Dennis Lehane said for years about bringing back Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro: when they come to him with a story, he’ll write it. I heard C.J. Ellison speak at a conference about why some woman writers have to use pen names. Forte was in the room with me before she finished speaking. “We’re not putting up with that,” he said, and we didn’t.

I confess this is easier for me than for a lot of writers because I don’t have a contract for the next book or three. I get to write what I want when I want and Down & Out is more cooperative than I could ever have asked. It will likely be a while before I write another Forte book, as I already have a three-book arc scoped out for Penns River, and the Western I’ve been threatening to write for a few years now has a definite shape in my head and half a journal of notes ready for use.

I’m also stealing a trick from the movies for Penns River. The book to be written after I finish what I’m working on now will serve as a re-boot of the series. After five books there’s a risk of stasis setting in, so I decided to actively work against it and shake things up a little. Some characters will go, some new ones will comes in, the dynamics of the police force will change.

To be fair, my lack of specific contracts is liberating. I have an idea for changing up, I can run with it, something I couldn’t do if I planned to pay the bills as a writer. This means you’re not going to hear me kvetching about my lot as a writer. A disadvantage in one area may well be a virtue in its own way. It all depends on why you write.

But that’s another post.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Happy Anniversary to us. 51 years.

THE POST was much better than I expected. It's the evolution of a woman from hostess to newspaperwoman. That story is what makes it work. Kudos to Meryl Streep for making it so real and believable.

Sun, warmth, new places to see.

The Sarasota Fruitville Branch of the library has more books for sale than my library in Michigan has to check out. I guess the snowbirds leave them behind.

Saw a great play HEISENBERG at the Florida Studio Theater. A lovely venue to boot.

Saw the whitest softest sand I have ever seen at Siesta Key Beach. I see now why middle westerners come to this side of the state. The ocean here is like a Great Lake. Very gentle.

What about you?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 19, 2018

Les Blatt, THE SUNKEN SAILOR, Patricia Moyes
Brian Busby, The Work of Richard Rohmer
Martin Edwards, CLOSE QUARTERS, Michael Gilbert
Richard Horton, THE WINDS OF GATH, E.C. Tubb, CRISIS ON CHEVRON, Juanita Coulson
Jerry House, THE BEETLE HORDE, Victor Rousseau
George Kelley, THE AMERICAN FANTASY TRADITION, ed. Brian M. Thomsen
B.V. Lawson, A GENTLEMAN CALLED, Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Evan Lewis, NEVER SAY NO TO A KILLER, Clifton Adams
Steve Lewis, OF ALL SAD WORDS, Bill Crider
Todd Mason, HEAVEN AND HELL edited by Joan D. Berbrich, SUPERFICTION, OR THE AMERICAN STORY TRANSFORMED edited by Joe David Bellamy 
J.F. Norris, HEART TO HEART, Boileau and Narcejac
Matt Paust, WITHOUT A WORD, Carol Lea Benjamin
Reactions to Reading, WHEN TIME RUNS OUT, Elina Hiroven
James Reasoner, THE DEAD STAND-IN, Frank Kane
TomCat, The Roger Scarlett Mysteries, THE MAN IN THE MOONLIGHT, Helen McCloy
TracyK, GREY MASK, Patricia Wentworth

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Things are going to be wonky on here because we forgot the stuff to hook up my computer and this is Phil's.

Anyway we watched this on TCM and I have to say it was not as good as I remembered. Harrison leaves me cold. Why waste your whole life waiting to be reunited with him?.

A very depressing movie about a widow( who didn't even much love her husband) who takes up residence in the house of a dead sea captain and becomes infatuated with him (or his ghost) to the point, she has no life. This must have been a cheap movie to film because she rarely leaves the room with his telescope poised toward the sea.

Their reunion after death did not make things right.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

A book I will talk about later called THE CIRCUMSTANTIAL MAN by Gary Reilly
That our condo is better than expected
That Phil survived an escalator mishap I have been dreading all my life.
And what about you?

Friday, January 12, 2018


So many of the bloggers/friends who helped me publicize my first two books are gone now for one reason or another. So very sad that its only been 2 1/2 years. So if anyone who comes along and reads this has a blog where I can talk about the book I would really appreciate it. A review, an interview, whatever makes sense and you are comfortable with. The book comes out in early March. 


"Patricia Abbott's collection of stories are just electric and utterly amazing. The short story form is perhaps the most difficult to achieve artistry in, and in I BRING SORROW, Patricia Abbott joins the very select few like, Frank O Connor, Raymond Carver, De Maupassant, and Dahl who have not only mastered this art but brought something entirely new to the genre. A dark, captivating collection.”
―Ken Bruen, author of the Jack Taylor series

"Patricia Abbott shows a rare and quiet mastery of the form. Any one of the stories in I BRING SORROW is worth the price of admission.”
―Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of WHAT YOU BREAK

Friday's Forgotten Books, January 12, 2018

Please check with Todd Mason for today's links.