Friday, June 26, 2009

Touch of Magenta Meet & Greet

We are having a ball at our Meet & Greets!

Kate Farrell and Linda Loveland Reid in pic to right. They will be at Calistoga at Copperfield's on June 28, Sun, 1:30.

Linda will be at Copperfield's in MV on July 16, Thur 7pm. Book Signing...please come if you can. I need an audience!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Any Redwood Writer Playwrights Out There?

We know Lynn Millar has successfully had one of her short plays selected for performance. Her play, 'Art of the Matter,' was read by the Reader's Theater at the Guerneville Library on February 25th of this year. It is a short play of 10 to 12 minutes.

Now, for the rest of you budding playwrights out there, jump on the bandwagon for the 2010 season. For all the details, pull the file down from the Yahoo Members page:

Over the years, Pegasus has worked with nearly two-dozen playwrights and they’re looking forward to discovering more. Please send your submissions for 2010 to Lois Pearlman at or 14290 Sunset Ave., Guerneville, CA, 05446. They prefer e-mailed submissions because they are easier to share among the selection committee. There is no fee for submitting plays and they’re only interested in playwrights who live in northern California.

Hey, do we ever fit the bill.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Corbett: A Writer, a PI, and a Duck Walk into a Bar . . .

David Corbett will be the guest speaker for the Sunday, June 7th meeting of the Redwood Writers Club meeting at Star Restaurant, Highway 116 West, 8501 Gravenstein Hwy, Cotati, California from 3-5 pm.

This post originally appeared on Lee Lofland's blog The Graveyard Shift. Both David and Lee graciously gave their permission for us to reprint it on our blog.


David Corbett is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book), and Blood of Paradise-which was nominated for numerous awards, and was named both one of the Top Ten Mysteries and Thrillers of 2007 by the Washington Post and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book. His fourth novel, Do They Know I’m Running?, will be published in early 2010. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, including San Francisco Noir and Phoenix Noir, and his story “Pretty Little Parasite” (from Las Vegas Noir) was selected by guest editor Jeffrey Deaver for inclusion in Best American Mystery Stories 2009. David has also contributed a chapter to the world’s first serial audio thriller, The Chopin Manuscript, which won an Audie Award for Best Audio Book of 2008, and its follow-up, The Copper Bracelet. For more, go to

A Writer, a PI, and a Duck Walk into a Bar . . .
By David Corbett

It says a lot about me, I suppose, that my favorite fictional portrayal of a private investigator is a cartoon character named Duckman.

Then again, it is also true that my older brother-a “human factors engineer” (read: research psychologist with a security clearance) who spent his career working for the Defense Department (current specialty, unmanned drones-which apparently feel traumatically inferior to manned aircraft)- once remarked that it was “frightening” to see how much of my personality was formed by Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Duckman, which ran on the infamous USA channel, known primarily at the time for near-continuous Wings reruns, featured a sexually degenerate, compulsively spiteful, savagely violent, hopelessly incompetent and wildly self-deluded duck who seemed to suffer from an anatine variety of borderline personality disorder.

Weirder still, his pupils and eyebrows vanished when he removed his glasses.

He benefitted from possessing the voice of Jason Alexander (on hiatus from his role as George Costanza on Seinfeld), and was aided by a stellar cast of freaks who were all vastly more functional than he was: in particular, a sidekick known as Cornfed, a dapper, insightful and lowkey piglet with the voice of Joe Friday and an encyclopedic knowledge of damn near everything (guess who did the crime solving).

Other characters included a buff, leotard-clad sister-in-law named Bernice whom I found strangely alluring, despite the bill and webbed feet (I have eccentric tastes); three sons-Ajax the dullard (with the voice of Dweezil Zappa) and the genius Siamese twins, Charles and Mambo; and finally two squeaky-voiced, pathologically upbeat and PC stuffed bear assistants named Fluffy and Uranus, who routinely got tortured, shredded, burned alive or otherwise hideously abused by Duckman in one of his customary fits of pique.

God, I loved that show.

(Oh, did I mention that in one episode, there appeared a would-be presidential assassin named, I kid you not, Lee Harley Kozak?)

When it came time to write my first novel, I considered a PI protagonist, but couldn’t quite get with the program. The PI novels I read were really just urban westerns, featuring some variety of the lone gunman, a character that bore no resemblance to me or what I did in my real-world job as a private investigator. We didn’t square off against the bad guys in a hail of gunfire. Normally, the bad guys were our clients. If we squared off, it was over how much money they owed.

I considered the more quasi-legalistic type of PI novel, a first cousin to the legal thriller, but even in the best of these, the defendant is almost always innocent. This again bore little resemblance to my job. I always fought vigorously for my clients, and did everything in my power to find evidence that would undermine the prosecution’s theory of the crime or impeach the informant (we sometimes blithely referred to ourselves as the Snitchbusters-Who ya gonna call?). But I had few illusions concerning my clients’ innocence. (To their credit, neither did they.) In many cases, their indictments were salted with a few gratuitous crimes they didn’t actually commit-oh, those fun-loving snitches-and I felt proud to whittle the number of charged crimes down to a more truthful number before sentencing, but this isn’t what the American crime-reading public wanted. They want their defendants absolved. I had no clue how to deliver.

The other grand illusion of PI novels is the allure of the private client, the ordinary citizen (read: babe) who walks through your office door with a terrible problem-often involving some form of blackmail or extortion, usually resulting from some itsy-bitsy indiscretion, with or without barn animals-and this poor victim of fate needs the tireless advocacy of the intrepid PI, the man who, in the immortal words of Raymond Chandler, can walk the mean streets but who is not himself a mean streetwalker (something like that).

Truth is, PIs loathe private clients. These creatures routinely feel certain they know exactly what happened, and you’re being hired simply to confirm their self-serving delusions. When you come up with something different-the truth, for example-they refuse to pay.

Guilty men with lots of money are the gravy train of real PIs. Unfortunately, they don’t make good fodder for the kind of crime novels Americans like to read.

You may have caught a somewhat jaundiced opinion of the American reading public. Not so. But I do, admittedly, possess a somewhat low regard of certain aspects of American culture, which still bears a strong imprint from Puritanical Voodoo with its black-and-white morality and apocalyptic eschatology. Very bad people (read: Satan and his minions) do unspeakable things to the innocent (read: the faithful). The moral? The Messiah is coming. (Look busy.)

This simplistic kind of morality also bore no resemblance to what I saw as a PI, and I wanted no part in continuing to propagate a beguiling (if wildly popular and thus potentially lucrative) delusion. I know all novelists lie. I just didn’t want to lie about that.

And so I have written four novels that deal with more morally and psychologically complex individuals whose lives are touched by crime: a marijuana smuggler who takes the fall for his crew and leaves prison dedicated to finding his hard-luck girlfriend; a cop who can’t shake the ghost of his brother who died pointlessly in Vietnam; an irascible musician who dies out of some mistaken jealous rage at the hands of a patsy arsonist; a bodyguard whose attempt to outrun his bent cop father’s legacy only lands him squarely back in its grip; an up-and-coming Latino musician obliged to make a pact with the devil to help his deported uncle emigrate back to the States. And, as anyone who’s read my work knows, I am particularly fond of the charming and expertly manipulative sociopath, a variety of creature with whom I’ve had more than my share of firsthand experience. And not just dating.

That said, I am venturing into PI territory with the book I am just beginning. (It will be my fifth; the fourth, Do They Know I’m Running?, comes out early in 2010.) I don’t want to spoil things, but Dan Abatangelo, the marijuana smuggler protagonist of The Devil’s Redhead, will appear as a stringer for a PI firm with connections to his sister’s law practice. I will return to Rio Mirada, the setting of my second novel, Done for a Dime, and deal with political corruption in both city hall and the public service unions.

That’s right, I am finally going to write the PI novel everyone has expected me to write. And I am really, really looking forward to it.

But I’d still rather be Duckman.

* * *

David and I spoke briefly at Bouchercon last year about our loyal, but aged friends, Tilly and Pebbles. During our conversation, we, two majorly tough guys, each produced our cellphones to share the photos we display as background images on the devices. The photos are of our beloved dogs. Two tough guys with soft spots for little dogs.

Since that time David’s longtime canine companion, Tilly, has passed away.

For Tilly:

The House Dog’s Grave
Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now run with you
in the evenings along the shore, except in a kind of dream;
and you, if you dream a moment, you see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
where I used to scratch to go out or in, and you’d soon open;
leave on the kitchen floor the marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do on the warm stone,
nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the nights through I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet outside your window
where firelight so often plays, and where you sit to read
- and I fear often grieving for me- every night your lamplight lies on my

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard to think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying under the ground like me
your lives will appear as good and joyful as mine.
No, dears, that’s too much hope:
You are not so well cared for as I have been.
And never have known the passionate undivided fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided…
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Flash fiction - slim and trim

Let me introduce you to one of my new loves: flash fiction. Perhaps it's because I love a challenge. Flash fiction is a story that is (usually) under a thousand words. Some magazines use 500, 750 or 1500 as the word limit. And it's not a character sketch. It has to have all the elements of a good story - not least of which, a beginning, middle and an end.

Like poetry, it's a discipline of word economy - you have so few to work with every word must count. If you can write a story of 1,000 words you'll find improvement in your longer works as you recognize the unnecessary words and scenes.

I'm a born editor. I think that's what makes flash easier for me, because the limit is really achieved (for me) through editing. I recommend giving it a shot. It will improve your prose and you may find it more satisfying than your weekly crossword.

Below are some places that publish flash fiction and a couple of other articles on the subject. What I think adds more fun is when you have to write about a specific prompt either written or an image. Try it and let us know how you do.

Flash Fiction Online
Vestal Review
Every Day Fiction
Literary Potpourri
Flash Me Magazine
Abyss and Apex (1500 wds)
Flash Fiction Project (No pay, no editorial review - blog comments)
SF Crowsnest
Maternal Spark (under 500)
Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette
WOW - Women on Writing
Duotrope (SF/F/H market list where you can sort by flash)
The Rose City Sisters

Writing World
Fiction Factor

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tips from Writers - What A Great Ecosystem

Redwood Writers maintains an excellent ecosystem of writers, editors, agents, and publishers available to help both new and experienced writers thrive in their literary pursuits.

Below is a selection of a number of Tips from Writers gleaned from recent guest speakers at our monthly Sunday meetings.

Sorted by Writer

Writer    and    Topic

Sarah Andrews      Writing as Storytelling

Guy Biederman      Why I Will Not Write Today

Nathan Bransford      Advice from a Writing Agent

Stephanie Deignan      Book Signings and Promotion

Molly Dwyer      Synchronicity & Sensibilité in Your Writing 

Christopher Gortner      Thirteen Years in the Making

Jean Hegland      The Importance of Place in Writing

Rob Koslowsky      Steps to Writing Technical Nonfiction

Rob Koslowsky      Fiction versus Non-fiction Writing

Rebecca Lawton      Writing Begins with Wishing

Gil Mansergh      Book Marketing Using New Media

Cindy Pavlinac      Travel Writing and the Power of Place

Jordan Rosenfeld      Making Each Scene in Your Novel Count

Kemble Scott      Success in Writing and Publishing

Shelley Singer panel        Mystery Writers Panel

David Skibbins      Writers Write and Writers Must Market

Kevin Smokler      How to Get Published

David Wetterberg      Parallel Structure

Ann Wilkes       Speaking of Speaking

Persia Woolley      Writing Historical Fiction

Stay in touch with your fellow Redwood Writers, join a critique group, and participate in the many reading opportunities and contests across Sonoma County and beyond.

Keep on writing!

Kevin Smokler: Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing, But Were Afraid to Ask

The following is a reprint from our website about our April general meeting.

Guest reader Carylon L. Alexander shared a piece of writing about the underground railway and anti-slavery. The segment revolved around a female social activist, Ms. Frances Harper [1].

Following Alexander’s compelling excerpt, Kevin Smokler took the stage and talked about the state of the publishing industry and then shared some ideas on how to go about getting published in the changing world of book publishing. Part of his talk was based on his book, Bookmark Now [2].

Smokler began his talk by warning us that he would not dwell on the blues of the publishing industry. The focus would be on “what is” and not on “what used to be.” He insisted authors wanting to be published should focus on what we can do going forward. Smokler told us to challenge ourselves by reflecting, “What does it mean to succeed in the Amy Tan sense of the word. What does success mean to us?” He suggests that our personal narrative about success is passive. We expect someone to discover us. No, that won’t happen. This is a fantasy. This does not exist. The book industry of the past that finds a new author and trots them out and promotes them and their work is extinct. The culture of a willing audience waiting to come out and see you is gone. You have to fight for their attention among the myriad of competing sources of information and entertainment. Furthermore, the economic model of paying large sums of money up front for an unknown author is obsolete. For example, Houghton-Mifflin had announced it was taking no new manuscripts in one of its divisions [3]. In this area, they were living off their back catalog. This kind of action sent chills throughout the publishing industry in 2008.

Smokler believes this is the worst time in decades to try and get published. You must have a name, and failing that a compelling platform where you can assure sales of 60,000 copies out of the gate. But do not despair. Opportunities will arise. Smokler suggested that “when times are bad, people become uncomfortable.” They become more community oriented and “volunteerism goes through the roof.” People want to improve society and therefore, new opportunities are created. Such is the case in the publishing world. Four things in publishing to be aware of or take advantage of include:

1. The old publishing model has vanished. Smokler quipped that it would finally be gone at the passing of Phillip Roth (b. 1933).

2. Publishers are currently wrestling with new models, which is difficult for them. “They don’t like ‘newness’ in their own business.”

3. Publishers are experimenting with 360 deals. In this model, they want a little bit of everything, just like a talent agent does. They want the book, the lecture tour, the library readings, the film deal, and so on. Is it any wonder they want an author with a name.

4. The author is a public figure and must compel attention.

Today’s author/writer is a public figure. An author cannot be a recluse. He or she has to get out there. Think of yourself as the product. This is so important in the celebrity-driven culture that evolved during the second half of the twentieth century. Books as the “dry product” in isolation are disappearing. People want to hear from the author too. Each writer must figure out how to build a following. Smokler suggested that Twitter [4] can be used as a social networking tool to build a following, literally, 140 character bytes at a time. Such micro-blogging sites ensure a self-selecting group will seek you out. Another tip offered was the use of e-mails. Establish short, compelling bits of info that people will not only want to read, but will forward to others. Here, the idea is to establish a platform from which you can launch your writings and establish your brand.

The attending Redwood Writers were teased with coming up with some definitions, such as, “Define book.” Smokler suggested a book is no longer just defined by bound paper, but a book is Kindle [5], Vook [6], and iPhone applications [7] too. The reading public has found ways to consume good writing in ways that suit them, through technology. Authors must therefore establish new ways of delivering their work. It is imperative that writers invest time to learn the tools.

Smokler also suggested there is a renewed interest in reading since the Internet leveled the playing field and removed the stuffiness of east coast publishers. He cited how consumer feedback almost crippled a lock company [8] and how Napster [9], an on-line music distributor, brought the music industry to its knees. The book industry must similarly change. “Change is the currency of our lives” and writers “are the people who should be on the front edge of change.”

“How do you live in public as a writer,” was another challenge laid before us. Do you volunteer or mentor others? [10] Smokler suggested everything is public these days. “Rock stars don’t trash hotel rooms anymore. Why?” It is because of YouTube and a watching world would shun such behavior. “Be the best representative of your craft – the writing profession.” Writers need to shift the perception that they’re all “coddled and spoiled.” Smokler went on to say, “Be honest, true, and dignified. Lead by example. Act as if the literary world of the future is here. Live it and it appears.” Time to start living.

Submitted by R.K. Koslowsky with edits by Persia Woolley and Linda McCabe

An audio podcast of his talk can be found here. Please note, Kevin mentions that Houghton Mifflin stopped acquiring new titles. While this was disturbing news in the publishing industry, it was only division and not the entire company that temporarily halted its submissions process.


[1] More on Frances Harper:

[2] Smokler’s book, Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times: A Collection of All Original Essays from Today's (and Tomorrow's) Young Authors on the State of the Art --and ... Hustle--in the Age of Information Overload (2005, Basic Books, 304 pages.

[3] Editors told to stop buying books, November 24, 2008:

[4] As of April 6, 2009, ‘Redwood Writers’ is on Twitter, trying to establish a larger following:

[5] Amazon is the world’s largest bookseller. Amazon’s Kindle:

[6] Vook:

[7] One iPhone reader application:

[8] Video of how a Bic pen can open a Krptonite lock:

[9] Napster challenges the RIAA:

[10] Redwood Writers is all about “writers helping writers” and the set-up of public readings and establishing critique groups are a couple of ways this is done by our organization.

Kevin Smokler and Juanita J. Martin

Kevin Smokler and Linda C. McCabe