Crime fiction author interview–Don Simkovich

Today, read part of the backstory to the crime story Book 3 Tom Stone Day of the Dead.

Lon Casler Bixby asks questions of his co-author Don Simkovich about his views on the Tom Stone stories. (Click here to read Lon’s interview).

More author interview links are at the end of this post.

Don Echo Mountain
Don imagining crime story possibilities at Echo Mountain above Pasadena.

When did you decide to become a writer and how did you know that’s what you wanted to do?

Being a crime fiction author never occurred to me. Writing about action did and in grade school, watching news reports on the Vietnam War caught my attention and I’d tune in every night before watching the game show Truth or Consequences. I wanted to be involved in significant events and that planted the desire to be a journalist and report on the events happening around me. I scribbled a few pages of notes about the Watergate trial and called it my own newspaper. But that did it. I wanted to write, interview people and make sense of the world.

My parents wrote short pieces, exploring what they could. My father, a metallurgical engineer, wrote a very good essay on surviving on a bridge (a trestle) as a freight train passed and nearly struck him and his brother.

My mother wrote various short pieces and one was published in a Sunday supplement of the Pittsburgh Press. She also wrote a very good biographical novel on the woman who founded the Daughters of the American Revolution that took her 8 years to research and write. It was her only novel.

Writing may seem to have come naturally to me but it’s been a lifetime of improving. As Hemingway says, The best writing comes from rewriting.

 

What prompted you to write the Tom Stone series – which is based on an original screenplay – Stone Cold?

I had written a few romance stories through a small press and decided I’d take on the challenge of writing a detective story. For the readers, you and I had produced a stage version of a 30-minute comedy script, Apartment Zero. Maybe we should write short story versions of it. And adapting Stone Cold was a chance to work together.

I felt it would let me develop as a writer in a new area.

I want readers to see there is hope—that good can come from the challenges we face and the pain we endure.

What intrigued you about the screenplay?

Don holding Tom Stone nitty Gritty XMAS

The Tom Stone — Anthony Angelino conflict took 3 years to finish.

It was a full-length screenplay that read fast. I liked how the characters took shape and I began seeing their traits and mannerisms. I saw the potential for exploring them in depth, especially the relationship and inherent conflict between Tom Stone and Alisha Davidson.

Were you worried about taking another writer’s vision (or story – whichever sounds better) and turning it into a novel with your own ideas and vision?

My first area of concern was that the script and character seemed “cold” to me or impersonal. I wanted to warm them up. So the challenge was staying true to the original intent of the screenplay and making it so I was personally involved.

I got 13 chapters in to the first draft and I stopped. It was September 2015 and I told Lon—that’s you—that we need a Christmas story, a quick one. You came up with a number of ideas that turned it from my thoughts of a 7,000 word story into a novella.

My need for “warmth” and personal connection shaped Chapter One of Nitty Gritty Christmas. Police give toys to kids at Christmas and I’m a dad who’s adopted his kids from the foster care system. An idea struck.

Jake pulls Tom along to hand out gifts to boys in a group home and Tom sees one boy who’s unruly and doesn’t fit in. That boy, Andrew, gets Tom’s attention. Now I’m personally invested in the story.

Fortunately, Lon, you went along with it.

What have you learned in writing the Tom Stone series?

Handling multiple points of view and sub-stories has been rewarding. We did this in Book 2, Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights, and more in Book 3 Tom Stone Day of the Dead. The Tom Stone stories was my first complete trilogy I’ve written—and I—and you—see at least one or two more books in this particular story line.

The other technique I’m improving is the cause and effect that leaves the reader hopefully wanting more. It’s how you lead up to a point in a chapter and end it with the answer to be revealed later.

What is your favorite genre of book to read? To write?

I can read multiple genres if they have strong characters that are “warm” to me—sorry to sound so artistic. I like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher character and I like romance, too. I want to find and experience the tension. Anita Shreve’s The Pilot’s Wife is a very simple story but with tension going throughout. This was what kept me turning the pages in John Grisham’s The Firm more than in his later novels. He did an incredible job creating tension with the details of a law office in Memphis.

Among my favorite stories remains James Herriot’s books from the late ‘60s and early 70s—a veterinarian from Yorkshire who wrote terrific memoirs and his experiences delivering cattle and horses and treating dogs and cats. He caught the significance of the moment and how each event impacted the people.

Real life, in other words. Oh, and I’m so sorry. I’ve just never gotten into Sci-Fi. Although, in junior high I read a story about a colony on Mars and really liked it. I think it was because the boy in the story got to skate for miles on the canals.

What are 1 or 2 things you’d like the readers to know about the Tom Stone stories?

They are real life, like you mentioned. I want them to sense the subtle humor in each one and get a feel for the characters. I hope that at the end of Book 3 Day of the Dead, the readers feel torn about Anthony Angelino and who he is as a person and what could have been for him.

I want readers to see there is hope—that good can come from the challenges we face and the pain we endure.

Want more author interviews?

Please read S.N. Bronstein with crime fiction set in Miami and wellness writer Colleen M. Story.

 

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Crime fiction author interview: Lon Casler Bixby

Hi! Don here. Here’s a crime fiction author interview with my co-author of the Tom Stone stories, Lon Casler Bixby.

The trilogy got its start based on a screenplay that Lon had written; he’s a photographer with a film production background. Of course, the books changed and I never asked Lon his thoughts on moving from screen to publishing. So I grilled him hard!

Lon Sungalsses and Hat

What prompted you to write the screenplay Stone Cold?

I was writing a lot of different screenplays in different genres. Comedy, horror, sci-fi. One night while sleeping I had an idea for a Detective Story. I woke up, sat in front of the computer and Stone Cold appeared–so to speak.

Are detective stories — crime stories something you particularly like or are drawn to?

Yes and no. I wouldn’t just go to the bookstore and buy a book. I do like the mystery and the thriller. Not detective per se. I like the ones that have a twist like a series about a Vampire detective, but, they have to be realistic and have personality and not be stereotypical.

What made you decide to turn the screenplay into a novel?

I had written many different and optioned a couple, so instead of them gathering dust in an agent’s office, I turned them into novels. I figured that was a much easier way to get them seen by an audience. The novel gets the story in front of people. That’s the point. Give people something to read.

Lon Casler Bixby

Were you afraid of losing control in the process?

Not at all. Partnering with you, Don, is easy — you’re somebody I trust. Instincts, judgement, not like giving it some movie studio where they’ll take it and change it. I gained so much more. I’ve let go of some of the story because you have a lot of great ideas that became the story. A lot of gaining instead of loss.

How do you feel about the trilogy being so different than the original screenplay?

I don’t know if it is so different. We took the screenplay and made it so much better. The screenplay was good, but flat and one dimensional, maybe even stereotypical. But we built on that foundation and gave it life.

What are 1 or 2 things you’d like the readers to know about the Tom Stone stories?

I’d like the readers to know it’s not just a typical detective story. We brought life to the characters by making them realistic, and relatable to the reader.

We deal with a lot of subjects including family values, child abuse, spousal abuse, organized crime, and the use of medical marijuana. We bring a lot of reality into the story along with humor — some of it might be subtle but we bring it out.

It’s not the typical straightforward detective story – it’s much fuller.

Try out a free preview Chapter 1 of Tom Stone Day of the Dead– it’s easy.

Email dsimkovich@gmail.com with Ch 1 in the subject line or click this link to sign up for our e-newsletter.

Editor’s note (that’s Don): The 2 stories available are:

Book 1 Tom Stone Nitty Gritty Christmas on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Barnes and Noble — get started for the discounted price of only 99 cents on Kindle.

Book 2 Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights on Amazon.

Tom Stone 3 Pack

We’ll interview authors on a regular basis including these two previous interviews with S.N. Bronstein whose stories are set in Miami and wellness writer and author Colleen Story.

Stay up-to-date with discounts and bonuses for email subscribers–we want our e-newsletters to be as entertaining as our stories!

FOR NOW– email me, Don Simkovich, at dsimkovich@gmail.com to receive a .pdf version of Chapter 1.

Updating Progress on Our Crime Story: Tom Stone Day of the Dead

We’re ready to send our crime story-thriller Tom Stone: Day of the Dead to Beta readers. Yea!!!tbIq2nD

If you like bargain books, skim below to see how you can snag a Kindle deal on our police procedural-thriller Book 1 — Tom Stone: Nitty Gritty Christmas.

Our last Work-in-Progress was May 3 when I wrote that we were making final edits on our crime story/thriller Tom Stone: Day of the Dead. I can’t believe it was a month ago. But we have edited it thoroughly and keeping the story full intact. Soon, it will be a complete book on our Crime Fiction Books page of this blog.

So where are we now in the editing and publishing process?

We finished combing through the completed manuscript after reading it together and making updates. Then, Lon went through and read it again and made brief comments. Those edits are now in so now the work is to format it for Beta readers and prepare to launch.

There are a number of scenes that we like — not just because we wrote the story but because we feel the material is well-written.

Of course, part of what’s left is writing up the synopsis / book blurb, too.

Stay tuned for the cover reveal along with contests to show appreciation to our readers.

We’ve put a lot of care into our work and take pride in what we write.

If you’re new to the Tom Stone series then we want you to know that you can get started for only 99 cents with Book 1 Tom Stone: Nitty Gritty Christmas on Kindle

So, yeah, we like bargain books, too.

Tom Stone Nitty Gritty Cover
A crime story that involves little-known neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Of course, if you download Book 1 then we’d deeply appreciate a review. We’ve got several good ones and thank those who have taken time to leave their thoughts and input on the story.

But now we have a complete crime trilogy taking place in and around the many colorful neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

We hope that you’re as entertained as we are by the story and the chase!

 

 

Why Writing Crime Fiction, or Any Genre, Doesn’t Have to Kill You

Writing crime fiction has some scary happenings–like my writing partner, Lon, waking up at 2am when ideas interrupt his slumber. And scribbling notes to finish our Tom Stone Day of the Dead. Sacrificing his sleep for the sake of our art! What a guy!

Writing interrupts authors of all genres or we do things like skip breakfast and chug coffee to finish paragraph before driving the kids to school or rushing off to the day job.

Anxiety can strike while we wonder how we can juggle marketing along with family and the investment of time needed to write a novel or collection of short stories.

Think concussions in the NFL and NHL are bad? The writing life can chew you up and spit you out.

Colleen M. Story CroppedThankfully, Colleen M. Story is here to help.

This is Part 2 of our interview with this wellness writer and author who has a fabulous website, Writing and Wellness.com.

Click here for Part 1, titled How Writing Crime Stories is Murder — and How to Thrive.

This post, Why Print Books are Healthier to Read before Bed, shows you’ve put lots of thought into this topic. What is your goal with “Writing and Wellness?”

My goal with writing and Wellness, first of all, is to help empower people to live more rewarding and fulfilling creative lives. The tagline for the site is “Empower, Nourish, and Replenish the Creator Within,” and when I’m writing a new blog post or book or whatever, my number-one thought is, “How can I help the reader do just that?”

It really helps that I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years, because I’ve gone through it all, from the aches and pains of working a lot to the ups and downs of the writing life to the self-doubt and discouragement to the thinking I should quit to the elation of having my dreams come true.

Looking back now, I can see how much self-doubt hurt my progress, for instance, or how I took way too long to get serious about submissions, or how the constant questioning of “am I really a writer?” held me back.

I’ve also suffered from back pain, shoulder pain, wrist pain, elbow pain, neck pain, eyestrain, and more, and I know how these little (and sometimes big) irritations can get in the way of getting your writing done.

I enjoy taking what I’ve learned and turning it around to help others. It’s incredibly rewarding and helps me to feel that no matter what else may or may not happen with my writing, it’s well worth it if I can save someone else from pain or discouragement, help them eke a bit more writing time out of the day, or compel them to listen to their creative instincts no matter what.

Was  Loreena’s Gift, your first novel? If so, how did you get it written so well thatdownload you won awards?

Loreena’s Gift was my second published novel, but it was about the seventh novel-length manuscript I wrote. So by the time I got to that one, I’d practiced enough that I was starting to get a feel for where I belonged in fiction—what my niche was—and what was involved in putting a novel together.

I’ve always been intent on improving my writing. Prior to Loreena’s acceptance, I consistently attended writer’s conferences and workshops, hired book editors to get professional feedback on how I was doing, submitted to contests that provided critiques and really studied those, and worked through many drafts to get the book right where I wanted it.

I’m very comfortable in non-fiction as I’ve been doing that most of my life, but fiction writing is (to me) so much more complex, in terms of what it requires in story structure, setting, plot, pacing, characterization, etc. I knew I needed to learn a lot, so though it’s never easy to face criticism, I came at it with a student’s mindset, knowing I needed a significant amount of education.

I’m still learning, of course! That’s the cool thing about writing—you can continue to learn until the day you die. I’m very humbled and honored by the awards given to Loreena’s Gift (and to my latest release, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue), as they help encourage me to keep going and keep learning, but even more precious was the feedback I got from readers who enjoyed the books.

How do you put Writing and Wellness into practice for yourself?

One of the benefits I’ve gleaned from Writing and Wellness and my health writing in general is that I’m much more aware of how my daily habits affect my overall well-being. So even though I’m definitely not perfect all the time—I have a weakness for cookies and cakes, and there are days I sit too much—I become quickly aware of the affect these slip-ups have on my body and mind and I’m quick to correct them.

I’ve also become much better at taking care of my creative self.

‘Through all the research and writing I’ve done on self-doubt and negative thinking, I’ve realized one very empowering thing: we don’t have to wait for someone else to give us permission to create a successful writing career. We can “choose ourselves” as James Altucher puts it in his great book, Choose Yourself. I now know more about finding your niche and drawing readers to you so you can feel more in control of your career. (My next book will talk more about this.)

I’ve also gotten better at taking action to keep my confidence high and my motivation strong. That’s not always easy to do, but I’ve learned we can put certain habits in place in our lives that help keep that creative core secure, and that’s key to a lasting writing career.

ABOUT COLLEEN

Read about self doubt, perfectionism, writer’s guilt, and more — and discover how you can improve productivity and time management in Colleen’s book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue. Get your free chapters here!

Colleen M. Story is on a mission to inspire people from all walks of life to overcome modern-day challenges and find creative fulfillment. Her latest release, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, is full of practical, personalized solutions to help writers and other creative artists escape the tyranny of the to-do list and nurture the genius within. The book was named Solo Medalist in the New Apple Book Awards, Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book, and first place in the 2018 Reader Views Literary Awards.

With over 20 years as a professional in the creative industry, Colleen has authored thousands of articles for publications like “Healthline” and “Women’s Health;” worked with high-profile clients like Gerber Baby Products and Kellogg’s; and ghostwritten books on back pain, nutrition, and cancer recovery. Her literary novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.

Colleen frequently serves as a workshop leader and motivational speaker, where she helps attendees remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers. Find more at her motivational site, Writing and Wellness, and on her author website, or follow her on Twitter.

 

 

How Writing Crime Stories is Murder — and How to Thrive

Crime writers — and writers and authors of all types — live demanding lives. Staying healthy is a big deal so that the story, articles, blog posts don’t kill you.

This is Part 1 of an email interview with Colleen Story of Writing and Wellness who combines her experience in health and wellness with her experience and passion for writing in many different forms. Stay healthy, keep writing. For readers, here’s a peek at how writing can be hazardous.

Colleen M. Story Cropped

Your perspective is unique. Few writers or writing coaches ever mention wellness. What made you link health to improved writing? Was it a personal “revelation” or understanding?

I’ve actually been a health and wellness writer for 20 years. Shortly after I started getting some of my short stories published in magazines, I got a full-time writing job at a corporation, and I quickly gravitated toward the health department. Management soon handpicked me to be the lead copywriter for that department because I could read all the complicated studies and then turn around and simply explain the concepts to the layperson.

I’m really grateful for the people I worked with at that company as they helped me find a niche in writing that has taken me through an entire career. After three years there, I launched my full-time freelance business, and that’s how I’ve supported myself ever since. Though I’ve done other types of writing, I’ve always specialized in health and wellness because a) I’ve built up a lot of experience in it, which makes me more marketable, and b) I love helping people to feel their best.

Then I got my first novel published and realized I needed some sort of online author platform. I had a website already for my freelance business, but it was pretty static, so I started a blog. It did “all right,” but it wasn’t getting the traction I needed, so by the time my second novel found a publisher, I knew I wanted to step it up.

That’s when I got the idea to combine my experience in health and wellness with my passion for writing and creativity.

I created my new motivational website, Writing and Wellness, and that took off. I found I really enjoyed applying what I’d learned (and continue to learn) as a health and wellness writer to the unique challenges of the writing life. The site gave me a way not only to expand my author platform, but to grow my writing career as a whole, as I’m now writing books, speaking, and teaching on issues I’m passionate about.

Meanwhile, you’re right that I’ve come to what you called a “personal understanding,” and that is that there are so many ways that wellness impacts how we create, and whether we create.

I’ve discovered that if we want to truly enjoy a successful, long-term writing career, we have to gain a better understanding of our unique creative natures and what they need to thrive.

That way we can put into place habits and techniques that help us recover more quickly from rejection, for example, or manage our writing along with our busy lives, or remain confident even in a turbulent market. Personal wellness becomes the key to all of that, and ultimately, to finding meaning in what we’re doing.

How about the writing space — why do you focus on this for writers?

Overwhelmed Writer Rescue - eBook (1) (1)Helping other writers to work comfortably and creatively is something I enjoy doing, because I know from experience how painful and uncomfortable writing can be. If you’re doing it for only an hour a day you may not notice it too much, but most writers are at the computer quite a bit. Me, personally, I spend hours working on projects for my clients, and then more hours working on my own projects. Add in the marketing we now have to do and you’re talking about significant time spent typing away.

Meanwhile the body and mind are not made to spend hours and hours at the computer. It’s just not good for us. It puts us at risk for repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, muscle and ligament strains, tennis elbow, neck and back pain, shoulder pain, computer vision syndrome, hunchback, and so much more. After you’ve been doing it for 20 years like I have, you begin to see and “feel” some of the consequences of your actions!

Through my own experience and because of my regular review of scientific studies, I’ve learned some important safeguards we can all put into place to help protect our bodies and minds from the deterioration that can occur as a result of all that time at the computer. If we approach it the right way, we can boost focus, energy, and productivity so we can make the most of the writing time we have.

This post, Why Print Books are Healthier to Read before Bed , shows you’ve put lots of thought into this. What is your goal with “Writing and Wellness?”

My goal with writing and Wellness, first of all, is to help empower people to live more rewarding and fulfilling creative lives. The tagline for the site is “Empower, Nourish, and Replenish the Creator Within,” and when I’m writing a new blog post or book or whatever, my number-one thought is, “How can I help the reader do just that?”

It really helps that I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years, because I’ve gone through it all, from the aches and pains of working a lot to the ups and downs of the writing life to the self-doubt and discouragement to the thinking I should quit to the elation of having my dreams come true. Looking back now, I can see how much self-doubt hurt my progress, for instance, or how I took way too long to get serious about submissions, or how the constant questioning of “am I really a writer?” held me back. I’ve also suffered from back pain, shoulder pain, wrist pain, elbow pain, neck pain, eyestrain, and more, and I know how these little (and sometimes big) irritations can get in the way of getting your writing done.

I enjoy taking what I’ve learned and turning it around to help others. It’s incredibly rewarding and helps me to feel that no matter what else may or may not happen with my writing, it’s well worth it if I can save someone else from pain or discouragement, help them eke a bit more writing time out of the day, or compel them to listen to their creative instincts no matter what.

Thanks, Colleen. And we’ll have more in Part 2 and we’ll find out a bit about Colleen’s novel Loreena’s Gift

Meanwhile, Lon Casler Bixby and I, Don Simkovich, have survived completing our first detective or crime fiction trilogy! It ain’t been easy but we managed to work consistently and stay healthy.

Eating well, getting sleep and communicating my week’s schedule with Lon has proven beneficial to the creative process and our working relationship.

Do check out Writing and Wellness and our Tom Stone Detective Stories here or on the Carved in Stone/Tom Stone website.

 

 

Work-in-progress update: Tom Stone Day of the Dead — Final Editing

We’ve not tamed the criminals in the crime fiction tale Tom Stone Day of the Dead. But we have tamed missing pieces, wayward commas, and some key chapters. Lon and I are pleased to announce that we are in the final editing stages for Book 3 of this particular series.

Starting today, we began reading version 4, Chapter One to finalize that what we’ve written is in place, makes sense and the reader will have a memorable experience for all the right reasons.

If you’d like, here’s a post I wrote on Goodreads about Writing Fiction with a Partner, Risks and Rewards. I delve more into how Lon and I have worked together.

Come late June, the trilogy will be complete each story taking place around Los Angeles, but especially in the Van Nuys-Burbank area.Van nuys Map

Tom Stone: Nitty Gritty Christmas, available for only 99 cents to introduce you to this crime fiction trilogy.

Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights,

Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.

Look for giveaways, specials, etc and a look at how Lon and I have worked together. We began these stories in January 2015.

So Happy Reading! And we look forward to having you join in the adventure and misadventures in these and future Tom Stone stories.