Things are heating up in the study. ONCE BURNED is in the pipeline, with copy edits in hand. STRAW MAN is underway, the actual writing, I mean. And I’m making sure I enjoy everything that Maine offers. Hiking. Paddling. Boating. So while I have a moment, a few snaps from the iPhone. Just to let you know that McMorrow isn’t the only one who loves Maine’s outdoors. From the last couple of weeks …
It is hard to do—unless you’re reading books from the early 90s or before, when calls were made from phone booths on numbers looked up in an actual phone book.
That’s what @DirigoDuke has been doing. Reading DEADLINE, the first McMorrow mystery, published in 1993, he sent out this tweet: We forget just how much the world has changed since smartphones and the UbiquiNet
My thoughts exactly, as I was reviewing the text for the reissue of DEADLINE by Islandport Press, coming out this fall. Jack McMorrow had to solve crimes the old-fashioned way. He didn’t track people down online; He knocked on doors, got his foot in the crack if they opened. When he was threatened it was by someone in his face, not on Facebook. When he needed information, he went to the source, cajoling a secretary or a kid or somebody’s disillusioned spouse. When he roamed the back roads of Maine, it was without a GPS. When he sought out Roxanne, it wasn’t via text or FaceTime or iMessage.
People were much harder to find back then. And when you were alone on a dark street in the middle of the night, you were just that, no smartphone snugged reassuringly in your back pocket.
I’ve eased McMorrow into technology, not only because that reflects my own habits, but because actual conversation is more compelling than an exchange of text messages. A threat is way more lethal when it’s made to your face, or on a piece of paper stuffed in your door. Detective work done through conversation and interrogation is much richer than the equivalent Google search. It’s hard to turn a laptop into a character.
The upcoming McMorrow, ONCE BURNED (May 2015), is the first where Jack and Roxanne communicate by text. It’s the first where a crazed assailant uses the comment box on a TV website to describe just how she is going to exact revenge. It’s the first where McMorrow tracks a criminal’s history online. It’s the first where a single missed call can spell disaster.
This is the world we live in, at least for the moment. It’s McMorrow’s world, and even more so it’s Brandon Blake’s. I’m moving into it slowly and deliberately to make sure technology doesn’t mute real people with real emotions. DEADLINE is tense and taut with a sense of danger that comes from putting characters in places where there is nowhere to turn, no buttons to push.
Like when you reach for your phone to call 911—and there’s no service. You’re on your own and that can be a terrifying feeling. You’ll see.
Who proofs this stuff?
In my last post, I incorrectly said that ONCE BURNED will be published in July 2015. It’s May 2015, by Islandport Press, and it’s bearing down on us like a freight train. Ms. headed for copy edit. Cover looking handsome and smart. Can’t wait.
Hey all. Summer has reached my neck of the Maine woods, which means the birds are quieting (all paired off now), the lake beckons, and I’m out and about—when I’m not writing about fictional Maine crime (ONCE BURNED, McMorrow No. 10, May 2015 release by Islandport Press), and reading about the real thing.
I guess I’ve told you that I cull the newspaper crime reports for bits and pieces that I can use in my books (the screen shot below is just a glimpse of the stuff I squirrel away). An interesting crime, a bit of dialogue, a memorable face. Case in point: for a few months I’ve been following the triple murder case in Bangor, in which two drug dealers were charged with killing three young people—Nicolle Lugdon, Daniel Borders, and Lucas Toscano—and then burning the car containing their bodies.
Nicholas Sexton and Randall “Money” Daluz, from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, respectively, were charged with the cold-blooded killing. Three weeks ago, Daluz was convicted of the three murders and arson. Sexton was tagged with one murder and arson. Sexton testified against his buddy, saying Daluz killed all three and scared Sexton into torching the car and people. The jury didn’t buy it and they both were convicted—Daluz of three counts and Sexton of one. As Daluz said to Sexton in the courtroom when the verdicts were read, “It was all about you, bro.”
This one caught my attention for a couple of reasons: one, the brutality of the execution-style killings. Shooting three people who were by all accounts defenseless. Then burning them. For Maine, this was a shocker.
Reason number two: Daluz and Sexton were tried together.
I knew these guys were sunk as soon as Justice William Anderson, perhaps with Hartley and Lombard somewhere in the back of his mind, decided against separate trials. One trial meant that Daluz couldn’t get off by ratting out Sexton, and Sexton couldn’t get off by ratting out Daluz. Of course, the three victims didn’t shoot themselves and then set themselves on fire. So, you might say, how could these guys possibly walk?
With separate trials? Easy.
This brought me back to a case I watched closely as a reporter in 1990. Hubert Hartley, 18, and his half-brother Henry Lombard, 30, were tried separately in a double murder that took place on Thanksgiving Day. Two young guys were shot and killed in a farmhouse in Fairfield Center. The bodies and bloody couch cushions were hauled off in plastic bags and dumped in the woods. Hartley and Lombard were the only two survivors, along with Hartley’s pregnant 18-year-old girlfriend, who said she was upstairs when she heard gunshots. She said Hartley killed one, Lombard the other.
But both Hartley and Lombard testified in their own defense, pinning the killings on each other. Both juries found reasonable doubt and both men were acquitted. As in not guilty. As in, you can go home now. They later were convicted of federal firearms charges but murder? They pulled it off and skated, as they say.
I don’t write courtroom dramas but I do write about criminals and their lives. And I wonder to this day what Hartley and Lombard said to each other when they met after their trials. Did they high-five? Did one blame the other? What about the girlfriend? Did she flee for her life? Did she join a celebration? And the families of the victims? Did they consider taking justice into their own hands? How did they feel knowing that a killer or killers went free?
And our boys Sexton and Daluz? Something tells me they won’t be chillin’ and chatting about old times.
Will they meet in prison? Will they be separated? Will one try to take the other out?
Chances are they’ll have a long time to plan their next move. Three cold-blooded murders? One? Either way, you’re going away for a very long time either way. See you when you’re old and gray—if ever.
Hey all. A quick note tonight to let you know what’s going on in my neck of the Maine woods.
On the book front, ONCE BURNED is headed for the Islandport Press copy editor shortly. My head is way into McMorrow NO. 11, STRAW MAN. Much of it is in the works already but I need to ponder a bit and mull and ruminate and all the other things that a writer does when not at the keyboard.
For me, this time of year, that stage of a book means being outdoors as much as possible. I’ve been pedaling the back roads, out in the boat on our town’s beautiful lake. Yesterday I was fishing with family and friends, catching mostly small stuff and asking them to take me to their grandparents. But even without trophy fish, it was a gorgeous day on the water, marked by a first for me, even after all of these years in Maine.
We were in a quiet cove in the west basin of China Lake, chatting and casting. And there close to the shore was a northern water snake, swimming along like a small water moccasin. It was about two-and-a-half feet long, the head held up above the water, the brown body undulating just under the surface. The snake swam by us, about 15 feet away, and kept on going on its water-snake business.
I’d heard of water snakes for years, heard old-timers tell about their days as kids prowling the lakeshore in search of the elusive creatures. But I’d never seen a water snake and they had taken on a mythical quality, like Nessie. No more.
That 10-minute snake viewing made my day, my weekend, maybe my week. And for some reason I was buoyed by the event, the idea that there are things out there, even in the most familiar surroundings, that I’ve never seen, that will take me by surprise and leave me grinning. A few weeks ago it was a yellow-throated vireo, a songbird I’d only read about until it was spotted in the top of an ash tree near the house. Now a water snake. Next week, who knows?
It’s that unknown that keeps us going, I think. It’s the same thing that drives you to read a book—or write one. That you don’t know what’s coming on the next page, in the next chapter. An unusual snake. An elusive bird. A crime you’d never considered, with an explanation you didn’t see coming.
Until next time … take care and stay in touch. And if you have a good snake—water, rattle, snake in the grass, by all means send it along.
Next week: real crime stories I’ve been following, and why.
Hey all. Just picking up around the study today. Notebooks, ripped sheets of paper, sticky notes, scrawled and illegible reminders, books held open with other books, wrinkled manuscript pages of my new McMorrow novel, ONCE BURNED, due out in May 2015 from Islandport Press.
Because it’s done, more or less. Versions 1, 2, and 3 have been worked over. Editor’s questions have been answered or at least addressed. I’ve fiddled and diddled and read and reread. I’ve reworked passages, deleted others. I’ve added a postscript and even a post postscript. Now it’s time to send this one out into the wide, wide world.
This is an odd moment in the life cycle of a book. You spend a year or more with the thing, starting with the seed of an idea. The seed grows, changes, turns into a few pages of hastily scribbled notes. The notes become sketches, outlines, stacks of legal pads, bookmarked pages in reference books, transcripts of interviews. Then there are outlines, which you print out and position carefully on the desk beside the computer screen. And then you start to write.
ONCE BURNED has a whole section of folders on my hard drive. It’s had three titles. Characters have had various aliases. Some characters auditioned for the book and, sadly, didn’t get a call back. I encouraged them to try again in the future. There was much about them to like.
In coming weeks and months it will be copyediting, cover design, marketing plans, galleys to reviewers. But today I’m in the midst of the bittersweet task of gathering up the stuff, stacking it in neat piles, taking the piles and moving them off the desk top. This one is done; on to the next.
It reminds me of walking through my kids’ rooms after they headed off to college. Some of their stuff was gone, and the remainder was neatened and put away and sanitized so that the rooms bore little resemblance to the place they’d lived all those years. It was time to move on.
Same way with the stuff that goes into a book. All of the things that were so useful for the last few months are suddenly irrelevant. The stacks move to the end of the work table. Then onto the floor. Then maybe out to the archives in the barn. Or just to the recycling.
It’s an interesting moment in the creative process, this house cleaning. It’s inevitable and totally expected but still, after doing it a dozen times or more, it still gives me pause. Because living with a book during the writing process is very different from seeing it realized. Huddling in the study vs. readings and signings and interviews. Two very different things.
So out with the old and in with the new. The sketches are already underway. The outlines. The small stack of stuff for the next one will grow quickly over coming months. The mess, I’m glad to say, will soon return.
Enjoying my birthday today. Thankful for family, friends, spring in Maine. Doing final edits on ONCE BURNED, the next McMorrow, due out May 2015. And pondering the next McMorrow, STRAW MAN, in early stages. Who gets waxed? How early? Does the story start with a murder or do I wait until Chapter 2 or 3? What better way to spend the day!
Please stop by regularly. I’ve divested myself of some other obligations to devote more time to gerryboyle.com. I’ll be posting about my life in this neck of the Maine woods, among other things. Stay in touch.
A quick note on a gray morning in April. Spring is here but cold and gray. Tomorrow we’re promised 70 and sunny so no worries.
I’m finishing up revisions to ONCE BURNED, McMorrow No. 10. The new draft is due to my editor, Genevieve Morgan, at Islandport Press on April 16, Tuesday. I always make deadlines and work way better when I have one. I told Genevieve this and she came back with a whole list of deadlined tasks, from revision of ONCE BURNED, to new introductions to the McMorrow reissues, to outline and chapters of McMorrow No. 11, STRAW MAN. I love to check those babies off.
ONCE BURNED is scheduled to be published in the spring of 2015, about a year from now. That sounds like a long time but there are so many stages leading up to publication that 12 months can seem pretty tight. Cover design, line editing, copy editing, publicity and promotion plans (and Islandport has some good ones up their sleeve), and actual production. But rest assured the book is coming and I think it’s a good ‘un, as they say. The crime is arson but the parallel plot has to do with one of Roxanne’s old cases coming back to bite her in a serious way. When you deal in people’s lives, as Roxanne did as a child protective worker, the consequences can be serious. Here’s a taste, in the form of the page that was just on my screen. Much more to come so check back in here soon.
Good news today that’s been cooking behind the scenes for some time. Islandport Press in Maine is going to publish the new McMorrow ONCE BURNED and reissue eight books from the McMorrow backlist. All those early books–DEADLINE, BLOODLINE, LIFELINE…– will be back on the shelf and, for the first time out as e-books. I’ll also be writing some original stuff for their website and some true crime commentary (just my cup of tea). So all good, and the result of lots of talk, negotiation, back and forth, reviewing of proposals, contracts, etc.
So now the fun begins. I’m revising ONCE BURNED based on some great discussions with Islandport senior editor Genevieve Morgan, who I’m really going to enjoy working with. Then on to new introductions for DEADLINE and BLOODLINE, and work on the next McMorrow, STRAW MAN. And a new Brandon Blake. And a prequel to ONCE BURNED. And on it goes.
I’ll go back to work. Please check back here for details and more stuff. I’m going to be on the website way more often in coming days, weeks, and months.