Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “July, 2013”

Andrew Gross – Live Chat

Andrew_GrossAs you know, I’m a fan of Andrew Gross’ work and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my blog and meeting him at ThrillerFest VIII. If you’re looking for the opportunity to ask him about his new novel, No Way Back, or any of his other books, I’ve got good news. This Thursday (8/1), Gross is participating in a live chat on BookTrib.com – a book/publishing website that features book news, reviews and custom online promotions, including giveaways, contests, live author chats, etc. During the chat, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. EST, you can directly ask Gross questions, and BookTrib is giving away a brand-new Kindle Fire loaded with a selection of the author’s books. If you’re new to his work or a longtime fan, I recommend you check out this event. Andrew Gross is a terrific writer and it should be a fun time.

Supermarket Stories – Creepy Customer

I haven’t posted a supermarket story in quite some time, so I decided to use the webcam on my new Alienware laptop to record one for you. Enjoy!

Book Review – Second Honeymoon by James Patterson

Second Honeymoon

For those of you that read my review of Honeymoon, you may be surprised. I thought Second Honeymoon, the sequel to the aforementioned book, was excellent. Both of the story’s plotlines were engaging, filled with interesting twists, and unlike a multitude of thrillers, believable. The character development was handled well, and I felt as if I was in John O’Hara’s shoes a few times in the novel. My only complaint is the way point-of-view was handled. As I learned at ThrillerFest, novels where the point-of-view of the narrator changes a lot can be jarring to the reader. From time to time, I found myself wondering who was narrating the beginning of a chapter. A few sentences in I figured it out, but this could have been avoided with less jumping around. Nevertheless, Second Honeymoon is a tightly-woven tale that will keep your attention from cover to cover and leave you satisfied. I highly recommend you give it a go.

Synopsis

A walk down the aisle, a resort hotel, a drink on the beach…for these unlucky couples, the honeymoon’s over.

A newlywed couple steps into the sauna in their deluxe honeymoon suite—and never steps out again. When another couple is killed while boarding their honeymoon flight to Rome, it becomes clear that someone is targeting honeymooners, and it’s anyone’s guess which happy couple is next on the list.

FBI Agent John O’Hara is deep into solving the case, while Special Agent Sarah Brubaker is hunting another ingenious serial killer, whose victims all have one chilling thing in common.

As wedding hysteria rises to a frightening new level, John and Sarah work ever more closely together in a frantic attempt to decipher the logic behind two rampages.

Book Review – The Soundtrack of My Life by Clive Davis

Clive Davis - The Soundtrack of My Life

The Soundtrack of My Life by Clive Davis is a fascinating look into the life of, perhaps, the greatest music producer and executive of all time. While some readers found this book to be nothing more than Davis patting himself on the back, I beg to differ. To me, it was an exciting journey through a charmed life that included fascinating stories about everyone from Alicia Keys to, my favorite, Barry Manilow. Yes, it is long, so don’t pick this up expecting a quick beach read. But if you love music as much as I do, and you approach it with an open mind, I think you’ll agree that The Soundtrack of My Life is a worthwhile read.

Below is an excellent interview Clive Davis did with Wendy Williams to promote the book.

Author Interview: Donald Bain

Donald Bain

Donald Bain

I had the pleasure of meeting Donald Bain after he participated in a panel at this year’s ThrillerFest. For the uninitiated, he’s the author of more than 115 books, many of which have been bestsellers. Bain is most famous for being the author of the long-running Murder, She Wrote series. If you’re a fan of the show or just enjoy a good mystery, I highly recommend that you read these novels – they’re good, clean fun.

Below is my interview with the author; I hope you enjoy it.

In your memoir, Murder, HE Wrote, you stated, “I never wanted to be a writer.” What did you want to be, and how did you wind up becoming a writer?

I was headed for a career in broadcasting. I received Purdue University’s top award for my work on the university’s educational radio and TV stations, and intended to seek a job with a radio or TV station after fulfilling my three-year Air Force commitment (I was ROTC at Purdue). I ended up being officer-in-charge of the Armed Forces Radio and TV stations in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Following that I was the base PR officer in Amarillo, Texas, where I worked in my spare time as a DJ at a radio station. Upon being discharged I stayed in Amarillo and was an on-air personality at the ABC TV station, and continued to work in radio along with owning a piece of a nightclub where I led a jazz quintet.

I married and returned to New York, taking various jobs until my cousin, Jack Pearl, a prolific writer, got me magazine assignments. He also introduced me to an editor at a major publishing company who gave me an assignment to ghostwrite the history of stock car racing. That led to another book, Coffee, Tea or Me? and I became a writer despite my intentions to not be one.

You’ve been writing the Murder, She Wrote novels for many years. How did this opportunity come about? And did you think it would last this long?

I’d been ghostwriting DC-based murder mysteries for a well-known person when a publisher approached my agent to see if I’d be interested in writing a novel using characters from the popular TV show, Murder, She Wrote. I took the assignment and here I am 25 years later starting the 42nd book in the series. I never dreamed it would last this long.

How do you keep track of everything your characters have done since the inception of the Murder, She Wrote series?

With great difficulty. Fans of the TV show and of the series of novels have a much better grasp of the characters and events than my wife and I do (we’ve been collaborating on the series for quite a while).

Murder, She Wrote - The Queen's Jewels

You’ve ghostwritten many books over the years. Do you have any favorites among them, and how does the experience differ from being a named author?

Ghostwriting demands being sensitive to the “voice” of the person for whom I’m ghosting, and precludes me, to a great extent, from using my own voice. I’m especially proud of the 26 books in the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes series. Since her death, the novels contain my byline, which frees me up to out more of me in the books.

Speaking of favorites, at ThrillerFest you told me you really enjoyed writing The Queen’s Jewels. What other Murder, She Wrote books are among your favorites?

The Queen’s Jewels takes place on the Queen Mary Two, a magnificent vessel and a wonderful background for the story. I also enjoyed writing Murder on the QE2, another splendid ship. Trick or Treachery is a favorite because of the way the novel ends, and The Highland Fling Murders took me back to my family’s origins in Scotland. But every book in the series has something about it that pleased me.

Do you plot out your books ahead of time, from start to finish, or do you just start and see where the story takes you?

My wife, Renée, and I come up with a rough outline before starting writing, but it changes as the characters assume lives of their own and take the story in different directions.

How have you managed to keep the Murder, She Wrote series fresh over the past 20 years?

Having Jessica Fletcher travel help keep things fresh and new. Locations provide not only changing backdrops for the tales, they can become characters of their own. And having Jessica do things that the reader doesn’t expect of her also helps.

Do you aim to write a specific amount of words every day, and for how long do you write?

I used to aim for 10 pages a day, then start the next day rewriting those pages. I tend to write fewer pages each day now. What’s important to me is not allowing a day to pass without writing something.

Years ago you were an award-winning public relations executive. How did your writing and experiences in that field help you as an author?

I’m not sure that it did help me as an author, at least not the writing aspect of it. What I loved about PR was that it demanded that you develop a sense of what the public wanted and to come up with ways to satisfy those needs. It also brought me into contact with a wide variety of people and situations, each providing a learning experience.

Murder, She Wrote - Coffee, Tea, or Murder

In your free time, what kind of books do you like to read?

I don’t read much fiction when I’m writing a book, but I do read a number of non-fiction books that bear upon whatever it is that I’m writing at the moment. During those rare times when I’m between writing books I enjoy spy novels (good ones), and reading murder mysteries by those writers who I consider to be at the top of their game.
How has it been collaborating with your wife on the Murder, She Wrote series?

It’s a joy collaborating with Renée on the Murder, She Wrote series. She’s a really good writer who brings a dimension to the series that makes it better. She also provides a woman’s perception that gives the female characters more depth.

What are you working on now, and what’s next for Jessica Fletcher?

We’ve just completed Aloha Betrayed and have sent it to the publisher. At the moment we’re working on the storyline for the next book, which will take place in Cabot Cove and has high school football as a background. The working title is Deadly Rivalry.

ThrillerFest VIII – Day 4

I picked up more than 35 books at ThrillerFest.

I picked up more than 35 books at ThrillerFest.

The fourth and final day of ThrillerFest was just as enjoyable as the ones that preceded it. As you can see from the photo above, I left the conference with a ton of books. Below are highlights, photos and videos from the final day of ThrillerFest, including the entire 43-minute interview with Michael Connelly. I’m attending next year’s conference, which I’m sure will be even better. Now I have to try and finish these books before next July. Wish me luck!

Does Speed Kill?

Does Speed Kill?

Does Speed Kill?

  • “Writing expository material in my books makes me feel like I’m running in mud.” – Andrew Gross
  • “I don’t like to write books that feel like screenplays.” – A.J. Hartley
  • “If you have a sprint from the beginning of the book to the end, without slowing down, there’s no depth to it at that point.” – Sheldon Siegel
  • “If my wife stops reading my book in the middle of a chapter, I ask her why.” – John Gilstrap
  • “I love to go to plays to see where the acts end and whether or not people get up from their seats during the intermission. It’s a great way to learn about pacing.” – Heather Graham
Meeting T. Jefferson Parker.

Meeting T. Jefferson Parker.

T. Jefferson Parker Interview

  • “I decided to be a reporter so I could pursue my passion for writing and in my free time work on novels.”
  • “I didn’t want to be a series writer. I didn’t see myself in that place, at that time.”
  • “The great thing about being a writer is you can be sitting on the boardwalk in Laguna Beach, minding your own business, and the main character in your next novel can walk right in front of you.”
  • “When it comes to the writing process, I’m a Monday through Friday kind of guy, from 7 to 5 pm. If I can get five pages done, it’s a good day.”
  • “The hardest part for me is not writing. It takes me three months to come up with an idea good enough to start writing. Then it takes me about six months to finish the first draft, and another three months to make it as good as I can before I send it off to my agent.”
  • “The shortest outline I wrote was on a bar napkin. After explaining the outline to the publisher, my agent called me the next day and said, ‘I don’t know what you wrote on that napkin but the publisher just bought it.’”
  • “For Laguna Heat, I threw away 2,500 pages over a five year period. I never worked so hard to make a book readable. In total, there were six drafts.”
  • “I love to read; it’s nourishment for me. I usually have two or three books going at a time. If I didn’t read while I write, I’d never read.”
  • Young writers’ first goal should be to find their own voice, and stop trying to write like their heroes.”
  • “I still feel that my best work is ahead.”
Are Young Adult Novels Meant For Adults?

Are Young Adult Novels Meant For Adults?

Are Young Adult Novels Meant For Adults?

  • “A lot of my readers are adults because they grew up with me. I’m nostalgia to them. I’m Hall & Oates.” – R.L. Stine
  • “There was a statistic saying that 52% of YA readers are adults. But if you remove The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, I’m not sure that’s true.” – Michelle Gagnon
  • “I wrote my first young adult book in five weeks.” – Barry Lyga
  • “I write YA because that’s what I like to read.” – Linda Gerber
  • “Young adult novels have a direct, powerful and emotional point of view.” – Allen Zadoff
  • “On social media, 30% of my followers are adults.” – Lissa Price
  • “I don’t think it’s so remarkable that adults read YA. We all used to be teenagers.” – Kat Rosenfield
Photo 2013-07-17 12.34.34 AM

Michael Connelly being interviewed by Jon Land.

ThrillerFest VIII – Day 3

Meeting Taylor Stevens.

Meeting Taylor Stevens.

The third day of ThrillerFest was filled with great panels, as well as an entertaining Anne Rice interview that was conducted by her son, Christopher Rice. Check out the highlights, photos and videos below.

Fist, Kinfe or Gun?

Fist, Knife or Gun?

Fist, Knife or Gun?

  • “It’s important to add vulnerability to your killer because no hero is all good and no villain is all bad.” – Wendi Corsi Staubb
  • “Guns are usually the easiest way to assure someone is dead.” – Alex Berenson
  • “My character isn’t setting out to kill people. So, for her, it’s about what’s available and what will work.” – Taylor Stevens
  • “You take a lot of darkness into you when you write about people hurting other people. It’s really hard.” – Allison Brennan
  • “You have to kill differently in different countries because of the cultures and the way people operate.” – D.L. Wilson
Keeping a Series Character Fresh.

Keeping a Series Character Fresh.

Keeping a Series Character Fresh

  • “My Davenport character has been around for more than 20 years. The way I handle it is he ages slower than everyone else.” – John Sanford
  • “I loved my Charlie Hood series. But I didn’t want to be beholden to it. So, I decided to end it with my most recent book. I love the blank page, and I had to close one door to open another.” – T. Jefferson Parker
  • “Paul Christopher appeared out of nowhere, and I never expected to see him again.” – Charles McCarry
  • “In 10 books I’ve aged my character only one year because policemen retire at a certain age. But culturally I’ve moved the books along with each iteration.” – Peter James
  • “I wanted to keep my character in an age frame that was believable as a prosecutor, so I aged her very slowly. And I think readers go along with that.” – Linda Fairstein
  • “If Jessica Fletcher aged accurately, she’d be 175 years old. But I haven’t aged her a day.” – Donald Bain
Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter or Pantser?

Plotter or Pantser?

  • “I’m bi – sometimes I outline, sometimes I don’t.” – Michael Stanley
  • “The biggest thing that sets thrillers apart is getting the tone right.” – David Rich
  • “Harlan Coben is an organic writer. He once told me that he writes a story from start to finish and then revises it about 40 times.” – Diane Capri
  • “Outlining is meant to help where you’re going, not mandate how you get there.” – Michael Robertson
  • “43% of people put down thrillers because they run out of gas.” – Rick Anderson
  • “I was a trial lawyer for many years and lived by the outline. Now I’m a loud and proud pantser.” – Joel Goldman
Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice.

Anne Rice and her son, Christopher Rice.

 

 

 

Book Review – The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

The Innocent - Taylor StevensThe Innocent is Taylor Stevens’ second novel, and I enjoyed it more than her first, The Informationist. To me, the premise of this novel was more interesting than the first, and since the author grew up in a religious cult, it was partially autobiographical. The Innocent featured plenty of reflective thought and internal narrative by the main character, Vanessa Michael Munroe; while this sometimes slowed down the pace of the story, it provided me with a greater understanding of the character and her motives. Some people have complained that this book didn’t have enough action, but I care more about a compelling story than a high body count, so this wasn’t an issue for me. If you liked The Informationist, you’ll enjoy The Innocent; it’s a worthy addition to a promising series.

Below is the synopsis for The Innocent. Stay tuned for my review of Stevens’ newest novel, The Doll, as well as my interview with the author.

Synopsis

Eight years ago, a man walked five-year-old Hannah out the front doors of her school and spirited her over the Mexican border, taking her into the world of a cult known as The Chosen. For eight years, followers of The Prophet have hidden the child, moving her from country to country, shielding the man who stole her. Now, those who’ve searched the longest know where to find her. They are childhood survivors of The Chosen, thirty-somethings born and raised inside the cult who’ve managed to make lives for themselves on the outside. They understand the mindset, the culture within that world, and turn to Vanessa Michael Munroe for help, knowing that the only possibility of stealing Hannah back and getting her safely out of Argentina is to trust someone who doesn’t trust them, and get Munroe on the inside.

ThrillerFest – AgentFest

AgentFestDuring the second half of day two of ThrillerFest was AgentFest, which is best described as speed dating between aspiring authors and agents. Hundreds of authors looking to get published lined up in four or five rooms waiting to have five minutes or less to pitch a book to a variety of agents. The agents were very nice to the authors, and they had timers to make sure each person was given a fair shot. This went on for three and a half hours. In the end, some authors were asked to email the agents a few chapters or an entire manuscript, while others were kindly rejected. The rooms were filled with so much hope and anxiety it was palpable. In case you’re curious, I didn’t pitch anything; my books aren’t far enough along to warrant a review, but next year, who knows.

ThrillerFest – FanFest

Andrew Gross - ThrillerFest VIII

Hanging out with Andrew Gross at FanFest.

Yesterday was the third day of ThrillerFest, and last night was FanFest – a time for fans to spend time with the authors they love, get books autographed and have drinks. After FanFest, I had the honor of having dinner with one of my favorite authors, Andrew Gross. Below are photos from both events.

Meeting R.L. Stine.

Meeting R.L. Stine.

M.J. Rose

With M.J. Rose.

Spending time with Lincoln Child.

Spending time with Lincoln Child.

Hanging out with Steve Berry.

Meeting Joe Finder.

Spending time with Jon Land.

Spending time with Jon Land.

Having dinner with Andrew Gross.

Having dinner with Andrew Gross.

Dinner with Andrew Gross and fans.

Dinner with Andrew Gross and fans.

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