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!

 

 

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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.

 

 

Crime Story Book Review: An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt

Scott Pratt’s debut crime novel in 2008

This story is a smash hit by an independent crime author. I was browsing Amazon and I’m not sure how I came across it, but I did, impressed by the volume of positive reviews.

Joe Dillard is a Tennessee lawyer who’s fed up with the system and defending the guilty. But when a preacher is murdered after visiting a strip club, a dancer is accused and Dillard sees his chance to defend—an innocent client.

 

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Cover

The cover is humble and straightforward. Almost bland, but it works. The symbols of justice are clear.

The Characters

People in the story are more important to me than the plot. They have to work together, of course, and Pratt does a fine job of weaving Joe Dillard in and out of the main story defending the dancer, Angel, while being comforted by his wife, nearly losing his life, and tackling cases that he really wants to give up.

The Book Description on Amazon says the dancer is a “beautiful and mysterious woman.” In a way she is. She’s terribly shy and has been terribly hurt in her own past.

The intriguing characters included Erlene Barlow, the owner of the strip club. She was outgoing and caring about her girls. Pratt did well not just painting the dancers with a broad-brush stroke.

Another was Johnny Wayne, a killer who showed no remorse.

A character that bothered my was Junior Tester, the son of the slain preacher. Junior was a prison chaplain and hated how Dillard made his father out to be a hypocrite. Junior did some Bible-sounding quoting but it was nonsensical and just didn’t have truth in it.

The southern disgruntled lawyer is not an easy act to write since an author can give in to stereotypes. Pratt didn’t. He steered it in an entertaining way with believable characters.

The ending portion of the story was terrific.

I look forward to reading Book 2 in the Joe Dillard series.

We also invite you to discover Detective Tom Stone and his pursuit of wanna be drug lord Anthony Angelino. Visit our Books page.

 

Discovering the criminal in a crime story: Al Pacino

A good crime story reveals the humanity of the criminal …

… and that’s what readers will discover with Anthony Angelino in our Tom Stone detective stories. We see in him a bit of Al Pacino’s Tony Montana from the movie Scarface.

Pacino Scarface Scene

Angelino developed from a quiet, elusive figure in Book 1 Tom Stone: Nitty Gritty Christmas to more of an entrepreneur shaking the mob in Book 2 Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights.

And in Book 3, Tom Stone Day of the Dead, his girlfriend Sara has dreams of living a quiet, family life and would love for him to do something—normal.

So why do we see a bit of Tony Montana in Angelino?

Scarface was not an easy movie to watch, but it was gripping. Al Pacino’s character has big dreams but unfortunately it’s through the criminal life. He sees others who have made it big and he knows he can do the same. He’s willing to sacrifice others for all the wrong reasons.

A memorable part of the movie was when Montana visited his mother and sister as we see in this YouTube clip. His mother knows what’s up. Below the clip is an excerpt from Anthony Angelino speaking with his girlfriend Sara.

Much of the world around us can look bright and shiny and we don’t realize how deadly it really is. Somehow we think we’re invincible. And maybe we’re too late in understanding what’s really important.

Tony Montana lived and fought for—?

It’s a question that’s worth pondering.

Why do people invest their lives in pursuing money when it’s fraught with danger?

Tom Stone Sweltering Summer Nights Cover
Can Angelino escape the mob’s clutches?

EXCERPT TOM STONE SWELTERING SUMMER NIGHTS, CHAPTER FOUR

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

“What is going on?” [Sara] sounded like she was fighting to control her panic.

“Just leave me alone.” Angel looked in a mirror on the wall behind the counter and touched the cut. He winced. “Damn.”

“Angel let’s get out of here. Close it up, sell it off. Let’s leave LA.”

“And go where? And do what?”

“Here, let me look at that.” Sara reached her hands like she wanted to hold his face, but he slapped her away.

“My father took a bullet as a policeman in Yucatan to protect the mayor down there. It was a war between the cops and the drug lords. And with the help of the CIA, the cops ran the drug cartel out of town.” He shook his head. “Can you believe it? The cops actually won.

“But the mayor had other ideas. He just took over, formed his own cartel, and stuffed his pockets with all the dollars earned on the backs of cocoa farmers. Yeah, the drug lords did more for the community than the elected officials. And I knew then what I would do. Earn lots of money and give back. Sure, I could sell everything and run. And do what?”

Sara mumbled. “Sell cars.”

“Sell cars?” Angel laughed. “How about horses and buggies?”

“Angel.” She motioned to his nose and forehead. “What are they going to do next? Kill you?”

“They could have killed me a long time ago. They’re smart. They let me do the hard work and then come in and think they’re going to suck the profits away from me. I know more than they do, Sara. You’ll see.” He held her, kissed her on the forehead and his problems seemed to disappear for a moment until the front door opened.

Detective Tom Stone entered. He greeted Angelino and Sara with a half-smile. “Well, how about this?”

Angelino couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His first instinct was to strike out, but he stayed behind the counter and forced a casual tone.

“Yes. How about it? Good morning, Detective. To what do I owe the pleasure? Or are you here to find something to help you chill out?”

“If I did, this is the last place I’d look.”

Angel smiled. “Well, look anyway. There’s a lot of variety. Shatter or some crumble and if you want weed, we only carry the best like King Moses OG. I just need to see your medical ID card first.”

Stone ignored the comment and nodded at Sara. “How are you?”

“Fine,” she replied.

He had been impressed how she calmly gave her testimony during the hearings.

“Still making bad choices, I see.” He glanced around the shop. “Impressive.”

“Thank you.” Angelino beamed. “You should open up one of these places. You’d make more money in a single month than you would in a year being a detective.”

“Hey, I may not make a lot of money, but I got a little something for you,” said Stone.

“Oh, nice. What is it? Another false arrest?”

Stone smirked, reached into his pocket, and tossed a gumball to Angelino who caught it and popped it into his mouth.

“Mmm, tasty.” He blew a bubble.

Stone looked closely at Angelino. “You’re looking a little banged up.”

“Uh, yeah. Cut myself shaving.”

Stone smiled. “On your nose? And your forehead?”

“Shit happens. Life is funny that way.” He spit the gumball into the trashcan. “They lose their flavor too quickly.”

“How about that? I got it from one of your machines.”

“What do you expect for twenty-five cents?”

Stone looked at the shelves and surveyed the various flavors of weed. “I see you don’t have vending machines here.”

“Of course not.”

“Angel, what are you doing?”

“Making money while at the same time helping people.”

“This is illegal.”

Angelino responded. “Nothing illegal here. Everything’s on file. After all, this is a not-for-profit cooperative sanctioned by none other than the fucking City of Los Angeles.”

The Mercedes pulled into the front parking lot. What the hell?

Stone took his time browsing while outside Wu got out of the car and made his way to the store. Angelino kept a gun in his desk. Maybe this was the time to do away with both of them at once. He could only wish.

Sara looked outside and then spoke to Stone. “Nice seeing you again. I have work to do. I’ll be in the back.”

“You take care of yourself, Sara.” Stone sounded sincere.

“Of course.” She went to the back.

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.

 

 

 

Crime Fighting Television: Have Gun will Travel

This blog focuses on crime fiction writers, but let’s face it. We’re influenced by what we read and see.

Image Have Gun Will Travel

My co-author of the Tom Stone Detective Stories, Lon, told me about the 1950s crime-fighting western show Have Gun will Travel starring the late Richard Boone in the lead role of Paladin. I asked Lon what he liked about the show.

“I started watching it as a kid and liked it then. Now I see it through adult eyes and I like it more. The stories were written and aired from 1957 to 1963 but they hold up. They’re current, timeless, and they’re morality tales.

“The moral is ‘do what’s right.’ Paladin is a hired gun. He has a conscience and tries to do what’s right. He’s smart A gentleman, knows opera, fencing. Sometimes he has to kill people and he feels badly, but he does what’s right. I also like the acting.”

Lon watches episodes on cable and I pulled it up on YouTube and watched a segment. Cool stuff. Richard Boone, by the way, was a cousin to clean-cut crooner Pat Boone.

I watched a segment, “Show of Force,” where Richard Boone is playing cards in a fancy saloon in ‘Frisco and hears about bad goings on at a ranch. He looks at a headline in the paper and sure ‘nuff. There’s bad stuff going down. Paladin isn’t one to turn a blind eye to justice so off he goes. Watch the segment below after the story excerpt.

Paladin stands out as a strong and dignified character, unflappable in the face of bandits tying him up and threatening his life. He stands for what is good in the face of what is bad.

We even worked Paladin and Have Gun will Travel into the 3rd novel of our trilogy, Tom Stone Day of the Dead.

CRIME FICTION EXCERPT: TOM STONE DAY OF THE DEAD, JUNE 2018 RELEASE

Here’s an excerpt where our character, Detective Tom Stone is watching the show.

Tom Stone 3 Pack

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

An actor dressed in old western garb pulled a gun from a holster and aimed at the television screen as a voice intoned. “Put the gun away, Counselor. What good is proof to a dead lawyer?” A simple range of musical notes sounded as an episode of the western Have Gun will Travel got underway.

Stone chewed on a pizza and Silver sat expectantly on the floor waiting for a piece of sausage or strand of cheese to slip and fall. The 1950s western, finding new audiences on cable, allowed Stone to escape away from programs with frenetic edits into a simpler world of black and white. He exchanged the pizza for a bottle of beer on the coffee table while the dog cocked his head, waiting for a bite—or drink.

In the episode “Show of Force,” actor Richard Boone known as Paladin got ready to take action in a dispute between ranchers. Silver started whimpering, focused on the last slice of pizza.

“Okay. If you insist.” Stone tossed a piece of sausage to the floor. “Don’t tell the girls. They say you should eat out of a dog bowl.”

Silver ignored the warning and inhaled the food without even chewing as the storyline unfolded and Paladin confronted the bad guys by talking straight and hitting them in the chin even straighter. A fistfight and chase on horse back ensued. Stone would have liked riding horse and feeling the wind while galloping after a crook. But even back then clues were necessary. He sat back in the sofa and sipped from his beer, letting the half-hour drama take his mind off the chase that continued eluding him. Silver looked over the coffee table, licking his lips.

“All gone, buddy.”

The phone rang, interrupting Stone’s relaxation. “Hello, Stone here?”

“Detective?” A man’s voice was hushed.

On the television set, ranchers squared off. “Yeah.”

“Robert Alvarez.”

“Yeah, yeah. What can I do for you?”

“I know you may be busy, but I wanted to give you an update on Sara.” His voice was strained.