Some Things I Can Tell You…

… others must remain unspoken.

What are your talking about, you lunatic? (Don’t you just love it when I read your mind and ask the question you were thinking?

I’m talking about the conversation that took place earlier today between myself and a certain author from Iowa City, namely my writing partner on the SpyCo thriller series, Craig A. Hart.

What did we talk about? (See? I did the psychic thing again). Well, some of it I can tell you about… for example his newly revamped website, which you can check out for yourself by clicking this link. For those of you who find link-clicking onerous, I’m including a screen capture of the top of his homepage, which will no doubt overcome your “clickophobia.” (For those keeping track that is word invention #3 for calendar-year 2017.)

craigahart

You want to click that link now, don’t you? Here’s a secret: the picture is also a link! Oh, and for the record, yes, that is me playing the part of James Burke in the picture. Ruggedly handsome, wouldn’t you say?

AKWe also talked about the upcoming release of SpyCo #5, Assignment: Alaska. I took a break from working on this one, but I still recommend that when it drops on December 15, you grab your copy. There is even a way you can get it for free. Here’s the post from Craig’s VIP Readers Facebook page:

Guess what’s coming VERY soon? (Dec. 15!!!)

That’s right, a new Assignment is on the way. And it’s even Christmas themed! But here’s the BEST news. You can have it for FREEEEE! How? Leave a review for the first Assignment: Adventure collection and then email me a link (craig@craigahart.com) to your review. Then you will be placed on a list of lucky ducks who will receive a free copy of Alaska as soon as it hits retailers!

ADVENTURE BOOK: https://www.amazon.com/Assignment-Adventure-SpyCo-Collection-1-3-ebook/dp/B077GC1P2R/ — feeling crazy!

That is an offer that only a mentally deficient frog-groomer would pass up. [Editor’s note: If you are a mentally deficient frog-groomer, the author meant to say “fig-groper,” if you are a fig-groper, the opposite.] And it is open to anyone, even if you’re not a member for the VIP Readers Group, though once again, if you’re not I have to seriously call your overall quality of life into question. (You can find a link to the group on Craig’s website, and you can join, thereby decreasing your lameness by over 83%). (You can find a link to Craig’s website above, remember?)

ireland-flagFinally we got around to the subject of… oh wait. This is the part I can’t tell you about. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to drop you a couple of subtle hints, however, which I can neither confirm nor deny. We might have talked about SpyCo #6, which may once again feature the Hart/Varengo writing team, and may be set in a place where drinking stout is a regular occurrance. (No, it is not set in my house!) There is also a chance that the cover, if said book actually happens, may feature the colors green and orange. (Trivia: Mr. Hart always designs SpyCo covers with the flag colors of the nation (or state, in the case of AK,) in which the book is set.) And there is another big twist… which I am absolutely not revealing at this time, but will flavor the entire story… assuming said story even exists, which I categorically deny. Or confirm.

hide-and-seek-funny-kids-23

Me, in hiding. I’ll be fine.

I’ve said too much. Craig is going to kill me. I can’t even lie and tell you he never reads my blog, because he has a link to it on his website, so he might accidentally click on it from time to time.

At any rate, my life is now in danger and I’m going to have to go into hiding for a while. And while I’m in hiding I may or may not be writing exciting books for you to read. With the guy who’s trying to kill me. Maybe.

 

 

Advertisements

A Bad Time for Funk

ClarkeW-1024x811 (1)When it comes to music, there is no such thing as a bad time for funk. As Stanley Clarke so eloquently tells us, “Funk is Its Own Reward.”  (See his album entitled “East River Drive,” if you don’t believe me.)

I’m always threatening to make myself a playlist called “Funk,” containing all the songs that give me that lowdown funky groove, including the two funkiest songs by white guys ever recorded, “Magic Carpet Ride,” by Steppenwolf, and “Long Train Running,” by the Doobie Brothers. (Give a listen to either one and see if the jungle monkey in your soul doesn’t wake up). And don’t even get me started on James Brown. Don’t. Even. Get. Me. Started.

l219520886But there’s a different kind of funk, a kind that is no friend to the writer. It’s like a wet, sticky cloud that follows you around, tying your hands together while at the same time whispering in your ear, “You have a lot of other projects that need your attention.” “The book isn’t going anywhere. Don’t worry about it.” “You only read half of chapter three to you writers’ group last week. That means you don’t have to have anything new to read until the 12th.”

That’s the funk I’m in right now.

That funk is a liar. That funk is a deceiver. That funk needs to go away.

The worst part is, of course, that I already know the cure: get your ass to work. Write! Stop writing about writing. Close your journal. Close Facebook Messenger and stop telling Craig, “I need to get to work.” Close your office door. Put some jazz on. Light some incense AND WRITE.

“But my computer is running slow. I need to tune it up!”

No, you need to write.

“But I have to research Bucharest.”

No, you need to write now, and add your well-researched details later.

The cold, hard fact is, (and I’m speaking about myself, but I believe this to be universally true), that the only remedy for writer’s funk is writing. Discipline, like funk, is its own reward.

Falling prey to the whispered lies is fine for someone who approaches writing casually. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it’s not the one I’ve taken. I look at writing as the calling on my life. I look at it as the thing I do best and the thing that I’ve known since childhood I would one day make my life’s work.

So is allowing myself to become the victim of what Roger Waters called “the creeping malaise” an option?

SuperStock_1439R-1080211

Me

Obviously not.

 

So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get ready for my nephew’s birthday party.

But after that, I’m going to write.

 

The Joy of Sittin’ In – A Black Friday Announcement

There’s a thing that happens sometimes when you go to a bar on open mic night. In general, the guys in the band standing behind that open mic are not super excited. It’s a gig, and it pays, but there’s a very good chance that they’re going to spend the entire night backing up people who shouldn’t even do karaoke, let alone be singing with a live band.

00aunts

Steve Hurley is the blonde guy. When I knew him his hair was spikey and he was as likely to be carrying a skateboard as he was a bass.

Every now and then, though, someone gets up there and something special happens, which brings me to a story that happening in Canton, NY in the early 1980’s. The Canton-Potsdam area, at least back then, was kind of a local-band hotbed, and there were some great ones. I suppose it can be partly explained by the fact that the Crane School of Music, part of SUNY Potsdam, is filled with talented musicians, but some of the best bands were made up of “townies” as we locals called ourselves.  The band The Gigolo Aunts started there, for example, led by Phil and Steve Hurley, a couple o’ punks who I grew to love and one of my best friends and co-worker at Maxfield’s Restaurant back in those days, drummer Paul Brouwer. Phil and Paul left the group eventually, but they played first in the bars of Potsdam.

Well, on the night I’m referring to there was a concert played by a band called the Ravens, headed up by a guy who went by the dubious name of Radio Bob and featuring one of my dearest friends on guitar, a guy named John Harrison. It wasn’t officially an open mic show, but they allowed a few people to sit in. My buddy Mark Sherry tore the night apart on harp, and yours truly drank enough beer to get up and sing “Twist and Shout.”

Now here’s the deal. These guys, (not even Johnny), had ever heard me sing before. What’s more, T&S was one of Bob’s favorite songs to sing. So they were taking a chance.

I was scared. I hadn’t sung in public in five years or so, but it was one of my favorite songs of all time, so I stepped on stage. The band started playing, and after the brief intro, I started singing. It felt good, I remembered guest vocalist etiquette and handed off to Bob for a verse, and, even more importantly, I remembered the words.

Afterwards, I was talking to Johnny and he said, “You had your back turned so you couldn’t see, but when you came in exactly on cue and exactly in tune, and then started rippin’ it, the whole band’s faces just lit up. It was magical.”

But this email is not really about music.

It’s about writing books with Craig Hart.

Back in October Craig and I started collaborating on the SpyCo adventure series. He had already written the first volume and gave me the task of writing another. He said, basically, “There are the characters that exist so far, here’s a little background on them. You can use them or not. Create your own if you like.” From those cryptic instructions, (carved onto a wall in a mountain cave in Nepal, so filled with Yeti dung that I could only read a sentence at a time before I had to run back out for fresh air), Assignment: Paris was born, featuring a new character named Perry Hall. I sent the manuscript to Craig, and in his underground bunker in Iowa, he read it, and the whole band’s face lit up.

00sydneySince that time we’ve written two more, Assignment: Istanbul, and the newly released Assignment: Sydney. These two are a little different than Paris, in that we actively collaborate now, through the voodoo magic, (Craig tells me the word “technology” is actually the correct term), of Google Docs, We take turns writing, though to say we take turns writing chapters is not really accurate, as we sometimes pick up where the other left off in mid-chapter, occasionally in mid-sentence.  (True story.)

It’s a little crazy. A little spooky. We have frequently had the same idea about something we might want to try, and our document’s margin is filled with comments like this: “I was just going to say that.” “That’s exactly what I thought s/he would say.” “Yes! Of course, that’s what s/he would do!”

I reader commented on a thread on Craig’s VIP Reader’s page, saying “Sometimes, I can picture the two of you laughing at something Perry said,” to which Craig replied, “We do exactly that.”  (He added an emoji at the end of the comment which decency does not allow me to reproduce here… also “technology” seems to prevent that as well).

The fact is we do laugh a lot while working on these stories. I have actually lost track of the number of times I’ve read something he’s added and laugh so hard that I have to regain control and message him saying, “You have my permission to cut every word I’ve written from this book as long as you promise to leave [insert any one of a hundred hilarious lines here] in!”

craigNew

Although I cannot confirm that this is a picture of Craig actually laughing about something one of our characters said, I do know that when he stopped laughing he said,  “Click the link!”

We also laugh (and sometimes shiver a little) when talking about things we’d like to do in future volumes. In one conversation the other night we actually (without realizing it until afterward) worked out rough plot sketches of not one but three future SpyCo adventures. There are times he’ll send a two-sentence message with an idea, and when I read it, the whole band’s faces light up.

So, having told you all of that, I encourage you to click on the link below and be magically [technologically] whisked to Amazon.com where you can purchase Assignment: Sydney for the Black Friday price of $0.99.

 

Assignment: Istanbul – Official Release

November 15 marked the official release of the third SpyCo thriller, Assignment: Istanbul, by Craig A. Hart and yours truly. This one tells the story of agent Perry Hall and his quest to track down his wife’s killer. The trail has led him to Istanbul, where intel has told him that Flick, who killed Perry’s wife, as well as a fellow agent in Paris, and very nearly Perry himself, has landed after a failed plot to destroy Paris.

00istanbulEarly reviews have been positive, and the introductory price of $0.99 is in effect until the nefarious Mr. Hart sees fit to jack it up to a cool million or so.

Here are some excerpts from the reviews:

“This particular series is fast-paced with great characters. Quite reminiscent of Fleming’s original “Bond books”. Great tongue-in-cheek prose with the requisite beautiful femme fatale all add to a fun read. No spoilers here. Read it for yourself to find out whether or not Perry gets revenge on his wife’s killer. I received an ARC from the author for my honest opinion which is you should really read all the assignments for yourself.”
“Bullets are flying but who is the target? Revenge for the murder of a beloved wife dominates the Spyco agents with assassinations in the forefront. Action sizzles and you can’t tell who if anyone or even Spyco will survive. If you like rapidly moving plots with a new twist around every corner you will love Assignment Istanbul.”
“Another brilliant book from Craig and Scott. Love the Assignments they’re full of action suspense there’s twists and turns galore everything that makes a good book great.”
Can all these people be wrong? I doubt it, though it’s possible.
At any rate, you should grab your copy today, by clicking right here!

Other News

00adventureAs if that weren’t exciting enough, a print edition of the first three SpyCo books is forthcoming. I don’t know about you, but as much as I love ebooks, there’s just something about holding a book in your hand, ya know?
Be sure to check back to find out the release date so that you can grab your copy before your snobby neighbor who gets hers and walks around the neighborhood reading it in public so that everyone knows that she has awesome taste. If you don’t have yours already you’ll look like a poser.

An Open Letter to Tina Fey

Dear Ms. Fey,

I’m writing to you today as a wild-eyed, obsessed fan perfectly normal person who is in no way a threat to one day shoot you  interested in annoying you.

I feel I’m off to a bad start.

 

Tina_Fey_by_Gage_Skidmore

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Let me try being honest. I am slightly obsessed, but that’s your fault. I am powerless in the presence (either actual or virtual) of funny people, and, frankly, I believe there are few people currently roaming the planet who are funnier than you.

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I did not watch a lot of SNL when you were involved, and I didn’t see a single episode of 30 Rock until it started showing up on certain streaming services after the end of its original seven-year run. I remember thinking more than once, “When season eight starts, I’m there! 100% commitment.” But alas.

I did, however, catch a handful of episodes on said streaming services, mainly at the suggestion of my daughter, who is much younger than me, and perhaps relatedly, much hipper. She kept telling me, “This show is hilarious. You’ve got to watch it.”

So I did. I found it painful. Literally physically painful. At various points during the episode, which featured Tracy Jordan’s painful childhood memories, “I once saw a baby give another baby a tattoo! They were very drunk!” my laughter was so totally consuming that I feared for my survival. If I had been able to take my eyes off the television screen, I might have seen the look of horror on my wife’s face, and her finger hovering over the “1” on her phone, having already punched in the “9-1.”

Again, the responsibility for all of this rests squarely on your shoulders.

Due to various and sundry circumstances involving the cost of retaining use of various and sundry streaming services and other financial obligations which “society” deems as “more important” than “entertainment,” such as “food” and “shelter,” (big sale on quotation marks at Barnes & Nobel), I was unable to watch the series in its entirety, but I was already hooked, and knew that one day, ONE DAY!, I would watch every episode. Breathing and regular heartbeat be damned!

A couple of weeks ago I was darkening the corridors of my local public library, (through the use of black construction paper and duct tape) and was preparing to climb on the shelves housing the DVD collection when a certain title caught my eye. It was “My Friend Flicka,” starring a young Roddy McDowell, and it literally caught my eye as I fell directly on it. But as I began to stem the flow of blood, I noticed that my library possessed all seven seasons of 30 Rock. And listen to this: they were willing to let me borrow them! Apparently, this is how libraries work. Who knew?

So I selected season one and was almost out the door before they explained to me the whole deal with library cards, and their need to know that they would eventually get their products back from me. Again, who knew?

Eventually, we cut through all the red tape, which was the color of the duct tape I’d used to darken the corridors, (un-darkening was another condition they put upon my borrowing from them), and I brought home that first boxed set.

By the second disc my wife had the paramedics on standby and by disc three they were at my home, actively monitoring my vitals. More than once through the hazy state in which my oxygen-deprived brain spent those several hours, I heard my wife actively curse your name, so sure was she that you, and you alone, were going to take from her the man she so loved.

Over the next weeks, I brought home season after season. My health started to deteriorate measurably, but I pressed on.

 

00dead

Tina Fey Deadheads [Feyheads?]

Around season four or so, I remembered that my daughter had purchased a copy of Bossy Pants. In case you’ve forgotten, that is the title of a book which you wrote. If I’d had no other exposure to your genius, I would have been willing to become a Tina Fey version of a Deadhead and just follow you around the world, based on your response to an internet post from someone who put forth the theory that you didn’t have a funny bone in your body to which you replied, and I quote:

 

“You know who does have a funny bone in their body? Your mom. Every night. For a dollar.”

I’m not dead yet so I cannot say with certainty that this is the funniest thing I will ever read, but I can say without fear of contradiction that is sure as hell is the funniest thing I’ve read so far.

By this point in our journey together my obsession had grown to the point where I had begun to fantasize.

Soft lights. A little romantic music. Some wine. A couple of laptops. The two of us laughing so hard that IV’s needed to be inserted. Then I remember, we are both married people, and through some odd twist, not even to each other. Then I also remember that I’m ten years older than you and that when you were just joining Second City, I was listening to my wife call me a series of bad names as she pushed our second child through her vagina. So I scaled back the fantasy to us just working together. Oddly enough the details, (lighting, music, alcohol), did not change.

But I digress, perhaps uncomfortably so. In fact, I’ll elongate the digression at this point by attempting to prove my status as a helpful individual. Knowing that the phrase “restraining order,” may have randomly popped into your head by now, I’d like to lend a hand by providing links to a couple of places on the internet where you can get them dirt-cheap and quickly. There are hundreds, so I’ve narrowed it down to the few that seem most legit. They are:

I think the third one is a not-for-profit group so you might want to support them. Up to you.

At any rate, I have about 50 pages left to read in your book and am on disc 3 of season six. Both of these situations are worrisome for me because both represent a state of coming to the end. I personally want Bossy Pants to be a little longer than Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past at a meaty 1.5 million words and 30 Rock to have lasted longer than Meet The Press, which is in it’s 70th season this year.

But I am not a monster, (proof: I do not show up once on http://www.thisguyisamonster.com). I realize that life is composed of seasons of its own, and that they don’t correspond to NBC’s broadcast season which has grown increasingly confusing over the past several years with the advent of breaks in the middle of the season, and five or six premieres per show during an eight-month broadcast period, followed somehow by nine or ten season finales for the exact same title. New math, I’m told. Common core, apparently.

So I recognize you’d want to move to new vistas, fresh horizons, and a handful of other beginning-related clichés that I don’t have the time to research right now. And that’s fine.

All I’m asking is that you Donald Glover me. Stumble upon my work. Laugh so hard that they have to dust off one of those sweet old iron lung machines for you that must be laying around in a warehouse somewhere, Portland I’m guessing. Then send me an email and say, “I’ve softened the lights. All I could find was an Air Supply cd. Will that work for you? You bring the wine. And your own laptop. I’m not running a charity here.”

I really don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. But if you do, I’ll deal with my crushed life, thanks to the techniques I’ve learned at http://www.sotinafeycrushedyourlife.com. Don’t give it a second thought.

 

Honors Heaped Upon Me (Just Kidding!)

As a living-room famous author (there are stages to these things, you must realize: living-room famous, locally-famous, nationally-famous, world-famous, and from there it just gets silly), one of the things expected of me is to have an author biography. This is used in various places including, but not limited to, my living room. Other outlets, such as my website, my blog, my Amazon.com author’s page, my Facebook page, my AllPoetry.com site, etc. also use one version or another of the bio.

I’m not going to reproduce the existing bios here, you can hop around to the aforementioned places if you’d like to read them, although I can give you the highlights:

One version states I was born in New York City in 1960 and two years later formed a musical combo known as the Beatles. The bio might lead one to believe this is something I did on my own, but I’d like to use this forum to officially recognize the other guys involved, although I don’t recall any of their names now.

Another bio relates the episode which occurred when I was in first grade, wherein I uncovered a massive Soviet plot to copy sensitive nuclear documents by unwitting six-year-old students, using those oversized pencils without erasers that were so popular in the 1960’s. Mention is made of the class mascot, a nefarious hamster named Comrade Gibbles, who was used to spread fear among the children. I have nothing to add to or subtract from this story. It’s history. Deal with it.

But, in addition to relating important episodes in my life, I think it prudent to enumerate some of the honors I have accrued during my writing career, though I do so with great humility. So I’ve decided to use this forum, (this is a forum, right? I’m using the word correctly?) to explain a little bit about just how freaking awesome I am. (See? Humble!) You, therefore, get to be the first to see my new bio section…

AWARDS AND HONORS

S.J. Varengo has accumulated a literal roomful of awards over the years, having early on learned that the secret to doing so is to study the writers who have previously won those awards and break into their homes to steal them. Here is a list of his triumphs:

  • 00nobelErnest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize for Literature
  • A Hugo Award for Science Fiction, formerly in the possession of Isaac Asimov
  • A Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature, once proudly displayed by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Two Pulitzers, John Steinbeck’s for Grapes of Wrath and a recent acquisition, Harper Lee’s for To Kill A Mockingbird, which just became available during the confusion after her passing.
  • national_award_1118A National Book Award that William Faulkner wasn’t using anymore.
  • Of course, there are numerous others, some well-known, some lesser-known, and some that turned out to be absolute garbage, barely worth the risk involved in obtaining them.

EGOTOn the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s notable that Varengo was the first person ever to complete an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards), completely through the use of larceny. Oh, and, in the case of the Oscar assault and battery; Sally Field is way tougher than she looks.

While his writing style has been characterized as “infused with humor and tenderness in an amalgam that makes it just shy of readable,” his B&E [Breaking and Entering] skills have been praised as “nearly flawless, leaving behind not so much as a teaspoonful of DNA in most cases.”

He has been invited to readings, usually of his rights, in the leading police stations of the U.S. and abroad.

His work has been featured on several popular television programs including “Unsolved Mysteries” and “America’s Most Wanted,” and he is a frequent contributor to the “6 O’clock News.”

When discussing his vast array of honors, Varengo is typically humble and gracious to those who no longer possess the awards, calling them “A great bunch of guys and gals who might want to consider updating their security systems.”

That’s it!

I think it captures the scope of my accomplishments while giving ample credit to the “little people,” which is what I call the race of tiny, two-headed quasi-humans who dwell in the mystical land of “Under My Bathroom Sink.”

But, ultimately, that is a story for another day.

I Have No Idea Why You Wouldn’t Do This

A lot of people like action-packed spy thrillers. I know this because I know a lot of people. I also know myself, more or less, and I like action-packed spy thrillers. I think this pretty much proves everything I’ve ever said is true.

assignmentSo now you know that what I’m going to say next is also true: you need to read Assignment: Paris, by Craig A. Hart with S.J. Varengo. And, as one of the two aforementioned authors, it pleases me to tell you that now you can.

How? You just asked that question, didn’t you? Yes, with me you also get mad psychic skills. Well, the easiest way would be to click this link if you have a Kindle or this one if you have a Nook. It’s also available on iBooks, and I think Craig even copied it onto a really big rock, which you can ask to borrow. The hardest way would probably be to go door to door until you find someone who has already purchased the book, talk them into inviting you in, and looking over their shoulder as they sit comfortably in their living room, or perhaps their den, and look over their shoulder as they leisurely page through the book on their Kindle, Nook, iPhone, or really big rock.

Now, even though I’ve already proven that everything I say is to be trusted, I’ll share a couple of real live reviews that are totally not made up by me:

“Scott is a nice boy and always smiles at doggies, so you should read Assignment: Paris.”

OK. I made that one up. But not these:

Reading Craig Hart is like taking a short vacation from reality. His short stories are a delight with completely satisfying endings. Assignment Paris brings two new characters into play. Perry Hall, a SpyCo operative, and Piet, a SpyCo techno specialist. Perry is called up for a special assignment due to his very special skills. We follow him to Paris, where his wife had been murdered three years earlier.

Perry battles his emotions as he unknowingly seeks the man who killed his wife and the egomaniacal monster who will sacrifice all of Paris for his own financial gain. Can Perry stop this maniac? Can he find the man who took his wife from him? Come to Paris with us and find out. Craig Hart carries you into the intrigue and mayhem of SpyCo vs Scorpion with the skill of a true craftsman.

– Cathy A. Thibeault


A wild ride from this author. Great plot and characters. A must read. 

– mima48


An action-packed spy thriller with a great plot, and an unlikely last-minute hero. (No I won’t tell you, you will just have to enjoy the book yourself to find out.) Take a trip to Paris, and save the world at the same time without leaving the comfort of your home. 

-Fritz


I really enjoyed this novella, well written, fast with the right amount of humor, twist and turns you do not expect, definitely keeps you guessing, at first I thought one thing then another, so yes extremely interesting. If I had one slight fault to be fair, I was enjoying so much. I would have liked it to go on and on, however. I genuinely think Craig A Hart is one of the best out there, and would definitely recommend his books, brilliant.

-marj Venmore


And on and on it goes. People are really enjoying Assignment: Paris, and so will you. And did I mention that for a limited time you can own this highly-touted, and let’s face it: a modern masterpiece, for the mind-bendingly low low price of $0.99. For those of you who can’t read numbers, that’s zero dollar and ninety-nine pennies.

So, I repeat the assertion I made in the title of this post: I have no idea why you wouldn’t want to do this.

Well Now, Here’s Something!

I’ve written about new directions that might or might not have been coming down the pike in recent posts, and now it’s time to be a little more transparent about what those changes/new projects might be.

For some time now I’ve been feeling the tug to try my hand in a different genre, namely the crime thriller/espionage/suspense sort of tale. I’ve even been kicking around an idea for a story that I thought might be fun. I’ve shared a little bit about it with some writer friends and got some very positive feedback. Basically, the only thing holding me back from moving forward was that I was nervous to try something so far removed from anything I’ve done before.

 

craigNew

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Then I got a message from this guy. That’s right, it’s award-winning author, father of two, husband of one, and all around likable bloke, Craig A. Hart. Readers of this blog may recall that I was privileged to interview Craig a while back, (see the post from 3 May 2017, entitled “The Interview That Will Change Direction in Which the Earth Spins.”). He’s the author of the Shelby Alexander Thriller series, which currently includes the books Serenity,  Serenity Stalked, Serenity Avenged, and the newest, Serenity Submerged. He is presently working on the fifth installment and hopes to release it before the end of the year.

 

Anyway, yeah, he messaged me and asked if what I thought about ghostwriting. I assumed someone had offered him a gig doing so. I asked him if that were the case, and wondered how the heck he’d fit that into his schedule, (he had twin toddler sons, remember, in addition to writing like a fiend). Of course, we were talking electronically, so I couldn’t actually hear him laugh, but I’m pretty sure he did when he answered my question by saying, “No, I was thinking of offering you one.”

Please believe me when I tell you that was the last thing I expected to hear. We talked back and forth for a while longer as he told me what he was looking for and the time-frame in which he was hoping to have it done, then he said, “If you want, sleep on it and see what you think in the morning.”

Sleep on it. Like I was going to sleep after getting an offer like that! I actually did sleep for an entire hour or so. When I got up in the morning I sent the following message:

“After a long period of intense soul-searching (= six minutes of childlike giggling)… I have decided to accept your offer unless you have come to your senses and have withdrawn it.”

I’m happy to say he did not come to his senses.

The project in question was to write the second installment in his novella series, chronicling the case files of an international covert espionage organization known as SpyCo. The first book, entitled Assignment: Athens had been so much fun to read that I had to pinch myself at the thought of being able to actually write one.

Craig gave me a lot of autonomy. I could create my own characters, as well as use the ones he’d introduced in the first book, pick my own setting, and pretty much go to town.

I secretly started writing a couple of weeks prior to the start date he and I had talked about, partly because the book I was working on, (the third installment of my series, Cerah of Quadar,) had hit a wall that I was having tons of trouble climbing over, but mostly because I couldn’t wait any longer to get working on it.

The arrangement, as we originally made it, was a straightforward ghostwriting deal. I’d write the book, Craig would receive my work, make changes, and publish it under his name as part of the SpyCo series. I was perfectly happy with this because it meant that something I wrote was going to be made available to Craig’s readership, which is a whole lot bigger than my own, and that I would know I’d done the work if people liked it. (Conversely, I would also know I’d done the work if they hated it, but I was hoping more would like than hate!)

I must admit that as the story began to take shape I sometimes caught myself being a little melancholy over the fact that no one would know I had anything to do with it. I felt like it was a fairly decent story with some interesting characters, and I was becoming proud of it. But I was also still very content to honor my commitment.

Then Mr. Hart blew me away a second time. But before I tell that story I have to tell this one:

 

00marktwain_cc_img_0

Fifty Years A-Comin’

On the day I was officially slated to start working on the project, 1 October, I was watching the CBS Sunday Morning show. They did a segment about a recently found Mark Twain sketch of an idea for a book that he’d never written. The segment was called “Mark Twain, Ghostwriter.” I considered this portentous for two reasons: first the obvious, the appearance of the word Ghostwriter, and second, there is a little-known fact that I’ve always clung to.  Mark Twain died on 21 April 1910. That happens to be fifty years to the day before I was born. I once joked that I was his very tardy reincarnation. It took fifty years for his spirit to find a worthy vessel.

 

So I dashed off a message to Craig telling him the story and we shared a laugh about it. Then he said: “Also, how would you feel about having your name on the cover, something like Craig A. Hart with S.J. Varengo?”

As always, my reply was very calm and collected. “I would not object to being mentioned alongside the great Craig Hart,” to which I promptly added, “Hopefully when you read it you won’t have any either.”

My reply may have been cool, but I was geeking out. I’m very glad that there are approximately 888 miles between his home and mine because that is just about how far away one would have had to have been to not hear my cheers.

assignmentThe reason I’m taking 8 million words to tell this story is that Craig announced the release date of the book that was the result of his offer, Assignment: Paris. It’s slated for an October 24 release and is currently in the process of the final edit.

If you are a Craig Hart fan, fear not. He took what I wrote and made some awesome improvements, to give it the sound and feel of another Craig A. Hart winner.

And if you’re an S.J. Varengo fan… haha! I couldn’t finish the sentence! I know there’s no such thing… yet! But perhaps after a few readers get a chance to read A:P, as I call it when I’m being lazy (most of the time), I may see a few fans crawl out of the woodwork. I am completely serious when I say I’m honored to be associated with Craig professional now, as I have been to be associated with him personally for the past six years. We’ve shared a lot of lawls, as we like to say, and I’m predicting many more in the future.

So here’s to us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ve it feel and sound like another Craig A. Hart winner. If you are an S.J. Varengo fan…

Sorry, couldn’t finish that sentence. I know there’s no such thing… yet.

I’m hoping that a few S.J. Varengo fans might crawl out of the woodwork as a result of Assignment: Paris. It was a blast to work on, and I am being completely serious when I say that it is truly an honor to be associated professionally with Craig, as it has been to be his friend for the past six years. It’s a fun story, and I’m guessing readers will get a kick out of it.

Some Roads are Long, Some are Winding

And, if Paul McCartney has taught me nothing else, some are both. This is the second time I’ve mentioned Sir Paul in the last ten minutes. The previous was a jealousy laden Facebook message to a friend who has tickets to see him at the Carrier Dome here in Syracuse on Saturday.

So he was on my mind already, but when I got to thinking about what I was going to write to you today, he popped up again, because I’m reflecting on what a long and winding sort of thing writing can be.

I’ve posted frequently (ok, constantly) about my work on the third book in the Cerah of Quadar series, and had even announced at one point that I’d hoped to have the first draft finished soon. I may have even said by the end of this month.

That is not going to happen. There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the chapter from hell, on which I’ve been stuck for approximately three hundred and seventy-five years. No matter how much I plead and swear and threaten, it will just not do what I want it to do. A winding part of the road has been reached.

Now, I’ve been at this for a while, and I know that sometimes these walls pop up out of nowhere, and you have to, if you’re going to be serious about this gig, learn to deal. To overcome. And fear not. I know that I will.

But I have something else I need to do first. This is where the road winds back around in the other direction.

Due to the nature of this new project, I’m not able to go into a lot of detail about it. There is way more I can’t say about it than there is that I can. BUT… I can tell you I’m excited about it, I’m going to have fun doing it, and it’s going to allow me to work some different muscles than I have recently.

This brings me to a somewhat more significant turn in the road. Genre-wise, my two published novels, as well as the current effort, have been in the fantasy genre. Dating back to my introduction to Middle Earth in high school, this has been a favorite of mine, and when the line that started my journey of writing about Cerah popped into my head back in 2009 I knew that would be what kind of book hers would be.

The way I’ve conceived the entire Quadar saga, it will require the book I’m working on and one more after that to tell the whole story. When it is done, I am probably going to be moving away from the fantasy genre for the foreseeable future.

Part of what I’ve learned preparing for this new project is that I enjoy telling other types of stories. Part of what I’ve learned writing fantasy for as long as I have is that there are a lot of people who enjoy it, and even more who really, really don’t.

So I’m thinking in terms of reaching a larger group of readers. I’m thinking in terms of seeing what I’m capable of. I’m thinking in terms of a road that could lead anywhere, with any number of winding turns. And I’m thinking I might just see where that road takes me.

 

Promotional Considerations Provided By…

One of the hats you wear when you are an independently published author is that of a publicist. I find it an odd, ill-fitting hat that makes my head itch a bit, and when I wear it, I feel a little like this is how I look:

00burgerhat

But I understand it is necessary that I put it on, and it’s a whole lot better than when I have to wear the editor’s hat, which feels exactly like this:

00sharkhat

Neither hat suits me, but I am needful of both.

I’ve been wearing the shameless self-promotion hat quite a bit in the past two weeks. Beginning with a Kindle giveaway of A Dark Clock last week, I was able to generate a handful of new readers. How many you ask? Let’s just say the number falls between zero and 700 million. Closer to zero. But not zero. So there are new readers, and that’s a good thing.

The next move, promotionally speaking, was an Amazon “Countdown Sale.” This is a multi-day event during which the Kindle version of a book is offered for a number of days at one price, which increases incrementally until the sale ends. Technically I suppose it is really a “Countup Sale” but who ever heard of that?

This sale is in full swing as of this posting, and I can prove it using this miracle of screenshot technology. This is an actual picture of the actual Amazon page showing the .99 sale price for Many Hidden Rooms.

e8b63ab2-8939-4014-8aed-dfa388a56eb7

 

AND just because I’m a real sweet guy, and because I’m currently wearing the hamburger publicist hat, I’ve made that image a link to the page, so you can rocket there and purchase it before the price soars to $1.99 sometime on the evening of September 13.

But there’s even more to the gig than just promoting your own stuff, because, if like me, you have friends who are publishing for the first time, it’s a good thing to get the word out about them as well. TO WIT:

 

Upstream is a book of poetry, written by my friend Eric. I am not promoting his book because he brought a sandwich to the library for me today, although he did, and I’m not NOT promoting it for that reason either.

 

Actually, I’m promoting it because it happens to be very good, and he has been very supportive of my work, so to not tell you about it would be in rather poor taste. And speaking of poor taste, wait till you read these poems. Just kidding. I have no idea what constitutes poor taste, as any photograph taken of me since 1963 will attest.

The book will set you back a paltry $7.99, exactly the cost of a single grape from Whole Foods. [citation needed]. As before the picture is a link. Go forth and buy. Or if you’re in a hurry, go third.

 

Next, we come to a book called The Mirror by a guy named Matt King, who is also my friend, although by all rights I should hate his guts. I should hate him because at age seventeen he is an excellent writer, and I suspect that by the time he is half my age, (which gives him about 200 years more to perfect his craft), you won’t have to turn to my rinky-dink blog to hear about him. You’ll be reading about him in other rinky-dink publications like the New York Times.

 

The Mirror contains several short stories and a handful of poetry. Matt will tell you himself the poetry is not his strong suit, but it’s better than he thinks it is, and the stories are, by and large, amazing. “The Mirror” was the first story I ever heard him read, and the memory of that experience is still very vivid in my mind. I knew I was hearing the work of a gifted author. His cover is also a link. Check him out on Kindle for $3.99, which you will soon realize is probably the best-spent money you laid out this week. Certainly better than what you paid for those Pacman scratch-off tickets. Unless you won a boatload of money, in which case in encourage you to buy all of the books promoted in this post.

 

You may think I’m done, but you’d be wrong because there is one more fellow you need to know about. Milt Franson is not seventeen, although he was once, a long time ago. Because he’s not seventeen, I don’t feel compelled to hate him for being so good at a tender age, I just feel compelled to hate him because he is so good, period. If you go to Amazon you can purchase three books by Milt, collectively known as The Wineland Sagas. This alternate history delves deeply into the facts and theories surrounding Vikings in North America, in a rich and entertaining manner. I’m showing the cover of the first volume, but be sure to find all three. They run just under $15 for the print version, and $4.99 for the Kindle.

 

So Let’s Review

I am not completely comfortable wearing the hamburger-shaped self-promotion hat, though it seems to feel a little better on my head when I’m plugging my friends’ work. In fact, I rather enjoy promoting their books, because it also allows me to take shots at them. And that’s just fun. Oh, what are you going to say, guys? “Please don’t publicize my book?” Ha! I doubt it, especially since I don’t think any of you even read the blog! So I could have said far worse things. I may yet!

And I hate the shark-shaped editor’s hat even more.