Wednesday, December 28, 2016


          When the Navy cut me loose from active duty at twenty-two, I used two index fingers for all my typing. Some famous writers work that way and they whizz right along. I was neither good at it nor fast. Once out of the canoe club I went to work at a regular job and moved into a close-by motel paying by the week. I met and acquired a beauty queen pregnant wife and we rented a one-bedroom duplex in a Southern California armpit town that shall remain nameless.
          I had announced to almost-family that I considered myself a writer who wrote every day, though nothing published. As a start, I intended to write Men’s Adventure magazine stories. Coming back at me, two things had to happen. I had to learn to type regular using ten digits, and all literary output would be conducted in the broom closetorders from the blossoming Mom. The place was a very small duplex. Most brooms, mops, brush and buckets in the closet had to go. What was left I’d work around.
          My pregnant bride taught me to type on a tired ancient Corona, but I was not a quick learner. When I eventually started to get the hang of it, she decided she also needed to be my editor. I didn’t mind that but she had a heated passion for the exclamation mark (!) and thought every other sentence needed one. I decided to do my own editing, though she read everything and gave me valuable input. That was more important than realized. Not many I know today read anything of mine, let alone everything. She continued to read my stuff for decades until she passed.
          Events bounded forward as they tend to do, and we had a daughter. Per my wife’s instructions, another pregnancy became my duty. My rowdy ex-Navy buddies wondered what kind of shape the girl had, they’d only seen her pregnant for the past two years. I allowed as how her beauty queen shape was none of their business. Our aim was to get one of each, then call the act of procreation complete and finished.        
          Meanwhile, every week I sent a story out, seven days later it came right back in rejection. These were to magazines like Adam, Best for Men, Male, Men, Men’s Digest, and I was in company with writers like Con Sellers and Richard Sergeant, and others more successful than me that few ever heard of. Higher up the ladder were True and Argosy where the bigger guys hung out, like John D. and Richard Prather and Lawrence Block, and others. Even higher up the ladder were Playboy and Esquire, where Salinger, James Jones and the new kid, Jack Kerouac, jotted off pieces. This went on for more than a yearsend them out, they came right back. I was still in the broom closet.
          More time hopped along. My son was born and we announced that was enough. We bought a house and I went from the broom closet to a tiny corner of the kitchen, then a tinier corner of the adult bedroom.
          Two years later after more than a hundred rejections, I sold a story to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, heady stuff. I started hitting all the minor men rags to the point I was selling most of what I sent. Thanks to connections from that, I wrote and had published my first paperback mystery novel. Because of the novel, I received a phone call from a New York producer-huckster-agent. He wanted me to start writing spy-adventure novels for Award Books and Merit and Mcfadden-Bartel under pen names like Nick Carter, Patrick Morgan, and Ray Stanley. I wrote a lot of stuff.  My typing got better.
          The marriage ended, never repeated by me. One marriage per lifetime was enough. I just didn’t have the necessary attitude for that much togetherness. The ex-wife demanded ownership of the kids, the house, the furniture, the best car, and the Corona. I moved into a studio apartment and carried on a two-year affair as a drunk-player-bartender in a swinging singles-only Southern California apartment complex, from which I barely recovered. My world crowded with bright-eyed, deep breathing, swivel-hipped, bikini-clad nubile teachers and flight attendants eager for more experience that I happily obliged. Not one was interested in what I wrote or how I wrote. Like the marriage, that bit of wild fantasy evolved into personal then distant history.
          Since I was under contract to produce a thrilling adventure novel in six weeks, one after the other, I had splurged for a shiny new Sears Tower typewriter. The money from my books was good enough for a writer-bachelor to live on. I had to buy another new Tower every year. The L went to hell firstmy neighbor told me mornings the thing sounded like a machine gun. I pounded on the keys without mercy, usually with a hangover. My typing had turned fast.
          I never wrote a thing on an electric typewriter. That mini-second pause when you hit the key before the type clicked on paper was too distracting. I’d lose my complete train of thought. The latest craze was something called a computer, but the complication of those gadgets buzzed way out of my solar system. I’d really be distracted trying to figure the thing out. I have much the same problem today.
          But, computers and I did become acquaintances. We have a nodding relationshipit says nodding, I say nodding. At first, I tried to use it as just a word processor, but criminy, I could actually learn stuff from iteven me.
          I got into computers about the time my kids outgrew love no matter what and didn’t much like the old man. Love today always comes at a cost. Some pay it, some won’t. Only a dog will love you no matter what at no cost unless you beat it every day.
          No more closets or tiny kitchen and bedroom corners, I moved onto a small sailboat that I owned outright and became a writer-sailor-bachelor. I still live on a small sailboat, though not the same one. It provides a table and comfortable setee for the laptop. When needed, a printer still has to be dragged out from a locker. Female companionship, while always welcome, is, by necessity always temporary. For most women, a sailboat is like camping, not everyday living. And nobody but a writer can live a writer’s life.
          Certainly, I could never return to a mechanical typewriter turning out novels at the volume I do. I’ve gone long beyond the six-week contract for wild adventure. I write only under my own name. Most of my writing is published independent. I like to think my stuff today is better. Many might not agree.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016



Award winning writer of crime novels.

George Snyder

Fresh out of the Navy, I started publishing short stories in men’s magazines; one to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. First novel, The Surfer Killers, published as Surfside Sex by Playtime Books (part of Neva Paperbacks) in early sixties. With Merit and Award books and through promoter Lyle Kenyon Engel, wrote Nick Carter spy/adventure screw and kill books. Later, others began to write them also. Writing as Patrick Morgan, wrote spy/thrillers in the Operation Hang Ten series with titles like, Hang Dead Hawaiian Style, (translated into French and Japanese), Cute and Deadly Surf Twins, Deadly Group Down Under Too Mini Murders etc. Later more writers jumped in to write them. As Ray Stanley, wrote The Mini Cult Murders, loosely based on Charles Manson.
In 2012 received an award from the Southwestern Writers Conference, Albuquerque in the mystery/detective/thriller category for my crime novel, The Farewell Heist. The same year, Solstice Publishing brought out the eBook of #4 in the Bay Rumble crime novel series, Baja Bullets and in 2013 the printed version.
In 2013 launched my new, Logan Sand hardboiled noir crime series. The first two novels, The Calcutta Dragon and Plundered Angels traditionally published. Began the first Makayla “Mac” Tuff, new kick-ass gal Private Eye series with, Pillow Shot, also published traditional.  And in May, 2013, I signed a contract with television media production company Villavision for a 24 month film option on Baja Bullets.
After a two year battle, finally won back all rights to all books, and became independent. I have added Baja Bullets and Slut to the Logan Sand series, with Hard Trouble now in work. Coming next with Bay Rumble is Deadly Doubloons. Mac Tuff has, Pillow Shot, Head Shot and Body Shot available with Easy Shot in work.
Several stand-alone crime noir novels are out there, plus non-fiction and a couple memoirs. Catch them at:         
Down the road is another standalone novel: Nuggets. Plus a couple Western novels, and a swashbuckler. 
Update (2016): TV Movie deal circled the drain and disappeared.  So-long.

Questions for Self-Published Authors
1.     How many books do you have published, and are they all self-published?
More than 45 published books, novels, non-fiction, memoirs. Short stories add to bring the total published to around 60 published stories. Twenty-three novels now are independent and available through Amazon and bookstores. Eleven were traditional published, then I got back all rights and brought them out again as independent.

2.     What are the titles and where can we purchase them? Please give link(s).
Go to my Amazon site to see them:

3.     How long have you been self-published?
Published since the sixties, self-published since the eighties. Independent since 2014.

4.     Do you set goals or follow a schedule pertaining to writing, self-publishing, and marketing?
 My goal for the last five years has been to write two to three books a year. My writing day is five to noon, seven days a week. Until lately, self-publishing was what I did when nobody was interested in my book—my traditional publisher/agent query limit is 150. After that, I look to another direction. In the eighties, there were those very expensive, terrible print mills like IUniverse and Xlibris (I had books by both) and today Outskirts and Tate—not one person in the whole outfit ever reads what is submitted. They were and maybe still are paper crankers, print mills, nothing else. What I did with three books, I handled every step of the process under my own publishing house, Seaweed Library. None of those books made their print cost back, except my children’s book, The Dragon With No Tail, which was also a coloring book. I would not recommend do-it-all-yourself. The cost is prohibitive. Marketing in the early days was scatter shooting. Since I write crime novels, for me it meant carting books to my favorite tavern when I entered a pool tournament or set up a table in the patio at Catalina Island or on the deck of my sloop. I sent countless free copies to reviewers and bookstores, which returned a few decent reviews but little in sales. Magazines on similar subjects often mentioned the books. Nothing organized about it which sales reflected. Today the computer offers unlimited possibilities. But nobody should forget. You have to have a decent product. If nobody is interested in your book, it won’t sell.

5.     If you've been self-published for a while, what changes have you seen in the self-publishing industry?
EBooks have changed everything over the past ten years. It has given rise to thousands of small eBook electronic outfits who act like publishers, sometimes using POD, although many will not consider print, or if they do they won’t mention it on their site. Now, everybody who can put together a shopping list has a book out there. The competition has reached snarling level. But many are one-shot writers; they write one or two books and expect the bucks to roll in. You got to keep at it; the numbers put you out there, especially with eBooks. You need a following brought on by many books. Another thing, I chair a writer critique group in Long Beach. With a show of hands, only I and one other out of fifteen at the table even owned an electronic reader. The last three books I read were on my Kindle. It isn’t my favorite way to read a book. The best thing eBooks had going was they were cheap. Even that’s changing. Also, none of my four aunts or two of my brothers even own a computer. They do read my print books, probably because I give them a free copy. 
6.     If you've been traditionally published, what moved you to become self-published?
Before I went independent, my last four books were published by electronic and POD publishers. I had a good relationship with the publisher. The editing was good, and the distribution, the same all of them use. If I were to stay traditional, I’d look no farther. But here’s what I’m sick of reading. I’m sick of reading about these writers who self-publish and sell a thousand books a month—and now we have some self-published millionaires. Never mind the guy who reached the New York Bestseller list and it only cost him $31,000 out of pocket. That stuff isn’t even in my financial solar system. Too many are making good money through hook or crook, and I’m getting into…me too. Probably the main reason I’m switching to—ahem—Independent Publishing resurrecting my old Seaweed Library Publisher, is the bad deal those eBook producers hand out. In the old days, publisher reps/book sellers could in themselves make a best seller. They pressured bookstores to buy, arranged signings, pushed for the New York area which was the headquarters for all books. Publishers who had them on payroll could take 80% of the royalty because they were making the book sell. Those days have gone the way of the dial phone. And yet, these electronic flashes still think they deserve 70% and 80% print royalty and up to 60% eBook. It’s obscene. I had a good deal with my last traditional publisher. We were on a 50/50 split down the line. But I’m getting greedy. I want it all, or at least 70% of eBook sales. My publisher did an on-site review. He let me buy POD from Create Space for his cost. It is unethical for a publisher to take profit from book sales to their own writers. They don’t agree but there it is. Most of those books are giveaways anyhow. The biggest bitch I had against my publisher, I didn’t like their covers. And the writer has little input for covers. The outfit: Self-Pub-Book-Covers, is terrific. I went through all their covers and picked out at least 20 I liked. So, anyway, my new books coming down the line will be Kindle KDP, Seaweed Library, and we’ll see how that works. None of my early books ever made the eBook route.   
7.     Simon and Shuster jumped on the bandwagon with their self-publishing service called, Archways. Do you see self-publishing as the "wave of the future?"  
Self-publishing is not only the future, it is the future here now. I haven’t checked into the Simon and Shuster scheme but just their name makes it sound fishy to me. I don’t see how it’s different than the old print mills. Face it, kids, Amazon does or will own publishing. Their finger is on the pulse and despite grumbles from a few disgruntled they are making the right moves. True, they are too big for their britches but so are the Big 5 or 6.

8.     Do you use a website and/or blog to market your book(s)? Please leave web addresses.

9.     What is your best tip for marketing self-published books?
Here is where everybody will shout about editing, the cover, format. But kids, what you need first is a damned good story worth reading. If the story is good enough, it’ll sell, even if it’s written in black crayon on a paper bag. Most stories aren’t that good. I don’t have any secret for marketing. I’m not very good at it.

1                       Let's talk money. How much more profitable has self-publishing been for you than traditional publishing? Have you found self-publishing to be worthwhile? Please give examples.
To paraphrase, the old quip is still true. Nobody but a fool ever wrote anything for any other reason except money. Mickey Spillane made a career of it. James Patterson is doing it with a lot of help from his friends. Lofty notions of self-satisfaction, and inner sole pabulum aside—once the creative part is done, I’m a pimp and those little darlings are my whores out there to bring in as much cash as their pleasure-giving will allow. I do have a financial goal. But I have to be realistic. I write hardboiled crime noir novels from a man’s POV, a genre agents tell me are a tough sell. Facts reveal the hard truth. 80% of all readers are women. The vast majority of these women read books in the sub-genres of Romance. That’s the lay of the landscape. More fact. 45% of college graduate men never read another book after graduation. For families that jumps to 80% period. So, I’m drawing dead from the get-go. I’m aiming at a 20% reader market and almost half the educated among them don t read. Not many left. Couple that with I’m a low-life blue collar writer. You won’t find many multi-syllable words in my books. So, burdened with that there’s no reason for me to make money. I find little or no difference between traditional and Independent sales because nobody is going to push my books but me. The only saving grace I have for myself is the situation improves with each new book. I do and will continue to write many, many books. I want to equal my retirement in royalties. I’m not there yet but I’m pogo jumping to it. Writers have to face it, not many others are going to bang their little drum. They have to do it themselves; maybe it’ll work, maybe not. Just keep cranking them out. There is one area where the old days, along with under-a-buck paperbacks were superior. No matter how small the publisher, the writer always got some cash up front. And the little publisher had a select group of outlets that it kept adding, who always stocked their books. The advance against royalties might be as little as a couple hundred dollars, but it was always something. My first novel brought me an advance of $500, and I was proud of that. It never made any more but I had that up front. Statistics continue to prove few books ever earn more than the advance. Maybe it’s creative bookkeeping? Even the old Nick Carter and Hang Ten books brought more than $1,500. How many of the self-published out there with their fifteen to twenty sales a year would like to get $1,500 a book for their output? Certainly the reason why all writers got something was because a select few of them did not receive obscene amounts in the millions and millions. As far as marketing, the policy for publishers today is to do as little as necessary and keep as much as they can get.

1                        Do you support your family with your self-published earnings? My family is me, living on a small sailboat. Low overhead. I live on retirement and my royalties. If my royalties ever equal retirement, I’ll take a backpack trip across Europe.

                       What has been the most difficult part of self-publishing for you? Little or no help with marketing from those who share in the profit. And the changing complication thrown in the path of just getting the book to the reader. That is one of the flaws of using social media to market, mostly, writer to writer, not writer to reader. The dependence is hoping other writers will help out by reading the books of fellow writers, and writing reviews. Someday, hopefully, only readers will read what writers have to say about their great American whatsit. And will buy.

1                        What has been the most exciting or rewarding part of self-publishing for you?
Anytime I get a fat royalty check. Miller Time. Winning that award was keen too. Who would have thunk it? Sometimes I think I should enter more writing contests. But they all want a fee, even the lordly out-of-reach Pulitzer people.

                       There has been a stigma on self-published books making them seem of a lesser value than those traditionally published. Why do you believe this is so?
The stigma is well-earned. Yes there were misspelled, cliché-laden sophomoric books but I don’t think that in itself is a turn-off. As a reader I can forgive some of that stuff. Bad writing is the reason for loss of value. Bad writing coupled with a mundane, lousy, done-to-death, quit-beating-the-dead-horse story. Only the writer and maybe a few friends think it’s terrific. But self-published books didn’t hold an exclusive on that. I’ve read some horrible best sellers. One of my most treasured reference books is a little 50-page book that has no-color no publisher, no SSN number, no copywrite and no photos, with an author named Fred Jones. It looks like something he put together in his garage. The information in it has me coming back again and again. I paid five bucks for it almost ten years ago. I love it.

                      With the advent of eBooks and the saturation of easy-to-self-publish books, do you find this still to be true?
No. Apparently writers are richer these days; they can afford expensive editing and fancy covers. But what’s happening now is genre constipation. The market is getting so backed up the reader is looking for release. We can’t all sell a thousand books a month, or become millionaires. One area the Facebook-Twitter-Google sites don’t quite hit—when it comes to those marketing tips—we’re not connecting with the reader, we’re connecting writer to writer. Sure writers are readers but it’s a different kind of reading. Instead of using marketing maybe we should seek a way to connect direct, writer to reader. And I think that is coming.  

Monday, May 23, 2016


An Interview with George Snyder, author of Operation Hang Ten.

Operation Hang Ten is undoubtedly one of the most offbeat, counter-culture spy series ever written, and the man behind the Patrick Morgan pen name was George Snyder. Snyder is still at work today, writing tough hard-boiled noir novels under his own name, but there was a time when counter culture espionage novels were his bread and butter.

George has kindly consented to answer some questions about this fertile period in his writing career. So, step into a time machine and go back to the late '60s and early '70s and talk about woodies, topless discotheques, and enemies of the free world.

Q: Firstly, how old were you when you wrote your first Operation Hang Ten book?

GS: Twenty-six. At twenty-four, married with a couple young kids, we just bought our house. I’d been hitting the men’s short-story market, selling fifty to sixty percent of the stories I wrote and the editor of Best for Men, who had contact with a Las Vegas paperback publisher suggested I try writing something longer. I wrote a surfer novel that got me hooked with the Nick Carter books that led to the Hang Ten series.

Q: Where did the idea for Operation Hang Ten come from?

GS:  The original title of my surfer book was, The Surfer Killers a mystery about a surfer who gets his woody stolen and that involves him in the gang run by his girlfriend’s father. (Long out of print). Neva Paperbacks paid a $500 advance and brought it out as Surfside Sex. I never made another nickel on it.
A New York publisher, I think Merit or McFadden-Bartell was bringing out a paperback series based on the old thirties, Smith and Street Publication private eye, Nick Carter, but making him an American James Bond. The books eventually were assigned by country to different writers and handled by a New York huckster named Lyle Kenyon Engel. In the beginning there was just him and me. He put out a call to writers but where he eliminated most, he required they already have a book published on their own. I bundled up my little Surfside Sex and sent it off. I got a call from the publisher saying they loved my surfer book and when could I start?
My first Nick Carter was The Defector, which went into four printings and was translated into French and Japanese. Once the publisher approved the first three chapters and outline, I was off and running with six weeks to finish the 60,000 word book. These were the days before computers, with carbon paper and clackety typing, banging away on a manual typewriter that my neighbor said sounded like a machine gun going off. A Sears Tower Portable lasted about a year (the L went first). When I was heavy into the Nick Carter series, now divorced to never remarry (one marriage per lifetime is plenty) and travelling around, I wrote car racing articles for several magazines Lyle operated besides his deal with the Nick Carter publisher.
Lyle asked me to do something with my surfer book, maybe make the guy a spy, dead parents leaving him rich, lots of contact with Chinese communists (popular bad guys at the time). If he got publisher approval, my advance would be $1,500 a book for as many as I could write, same deal, 60,000 words in six weeks. Unlike now, in those days even small publishers gave some kind of up-front money. He chose the writer name, Patrick Morgan. I fought against Cartwright (sounded like Bonanza) but lost. Another thing I almost lost to the publisher was titles. They had the first title; Too Mini Murders that I thought was dumb. The others I suggested they thought were too long: Hang Dead Hawaiian Style, Cute and Deadly Surf Twins, etc. but I dug in and fought it out and won. Although written first, Too Mini Murders was released after Hang Dead Hawaiian Style, which was also translated into Japanese and French. I titled all the other books I wrote, until other writers came in later. I owned no rights to either series.
The publisher also wanted more computer stuff, more than temperature and drink mixes and rotating bed. I fought that too because I didn’t want to get bogged down in technology with a lot of tech-babble I really didn’t know. These books were to be fun romps, lots of sex with happy girls who liked giving themselves to my cool guy, and vicious villainous Chi-Com bad guys.  At the time I lived in a singles-only apartment complex and was the resident bartender Friday and Saturday nights. Often tough getting out those 10 finished pages every day, five days a week. The world was filled with free-thinking long-haired, hippy-type beautiful girls who sometimes smelled good and were eager for liberation and experience.
Another conflict came when women took over publisher reader and editing jobs. I got notes that the books were too sexist and maybe we should tone it down by giving Bill a girl-match for some of his twisted ideas. I pointed out the covers (some of the greatest in book publishing) and told them to just look at that guy. What healthy bikini-clad, deep breathing, swivel-hipped surfer gal wouldn’t get her thighs quivering to get some of that. The guy was a cool good-looking stud. The sexist street ran both ways. It didn’t quiet the editors, and although I won battles, I was slowly losing the war. They also wanted me to tone down what they called snippets of philosophy the books carried. I didn’t get that one.
I gave Bill the trailer, checked to learn Flying Tigers Airline could cargo lift the trailer anywhere in the world, and had Bill operate in a surfing triangle between Australia, Mexico and Southern California. I had him working for Operation Hang Ten. After the first year, the publisher brought in other writers with other, more acceptable titles.
Today I consider the series juvenile and badly written when compared to what I write now. They were published pretty much as they peeled out of the typewriter, other than light proof, no real editing or polish. And to me, they read like it. But I still meet people who loved them and are sorry I stopped writing the series.

Q: Were the Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello's Beach Party films an influence at all? Similarly, the other big beach films of the era featured Elvis Presley. If any, did Presley's 'Rock-a-hula' Hawaiian films have an impact on the series? I notice the first in the series, Hang Dead Hawaiian Style borrows its title from Presley's Paradise Hawaiian Style.

GS:  Never cared for the Beach Blanket Bimbo flicks. We thought Frankie was already doing Annette anyway so what was the point of the celluloid chase? I didn’t see Paradise Hawaiian Style, it’s more likely the Elvis producers borrowed the title from the Hang Ten books. I like some of Elvis’s music, never cared for his movies. Other than body surfing, my contact with the surf crowd was mainly through observation. I hung out in Manhattan and Redondo Beach, did some of the night spots, mostly looked at the mouth watering scenery. Movies were not an influence.

Q: Did the counter culture themes, such as not working for the establishment and being your own man/or woman come from you? Or did the publisher shoe horn these elements into the story to appeal to a youth market?

GS: When I turned thirty, divorced, living in Newport Beach, California, I was part of a youngish culture; I sailed to Catalina Island for Scuba and parties. The Newport Beach South Bay Club Singles-Only complex had enough partying for a lifetime. I body-surfed the California coast but preferred diving, the diving community itself partied hard and hearty. I had no job to go to, for several years I lived on my writing. Gorgeous women were friendly, the scotch flowed easy and every night was either Friday or Saturday (except when I was writing). I did uppers and downers and smoked a ton of pot. There was little the publisher could add to that kind of lifestyle. I felt they were a stuffy East Coast bunch anyway. It went three years until I moved out, much of that time weekends were a blur.

Q: What market were the books aimed at? Were they written for the surfing crowd? Or were they simply an alternative to the staid authoritarian tone prevalent in other spy fiction of the era?

GS:  I have no idea. We writers of that time just cared about cranking the books out. Marketing was left to others. Not like today when the writer has to do it all. Surfers I’ve talked to liked the books. Tavern drinking buddies who read them still think they were the wildest, raunchiest stuff I ever wrote. The James Bond types weren’t too interested. There were many spy paperbacks out at the time, and PIs like Shell Scott and Travis McGee; books by Donald Hamilton, Don Pendleton; Mack Bolan were out there. The field became crowded. The Hang Ten books were loudly laughed at by the literary crowd, as were the Nick Carters.
            Real-life surfers at the time were likely too busy with each other to do much reading.  

Q: The series presents the perfect, dare I say it, 'hippy' lifestyle – Cartwright is a character who follows the sun and the surf around the globe. How much of yourself is in the character of Bill Cartwright? Were you a counter-culture rebel? Do you surf?

GS: At the time I body surfed, seldom got on a board. Again, at the time, the Cartwright acted and thought a lot as I did. I’ve always had a healthy disregard for what others say and think, specifically about my writing, because opinions are so subjective. The example being fighting with publishers; writers don’t fight with publishers, who are, God. Yet even today when I know how I want something in my book, I’ll fight for it. I have always written what I like. If others like it enough to spend money so they can read it, I’m happy. But I don’t write what I think will be popular or jump on the back of the latest trend, probably why I’ve never made a lot of money with my books.
            My lifestyle was established then. Now, I live aboard a small sailboat. I’ve solo-sailed Puget Sound to Alaska and spent a year solo cruising Mexico, where I wrote screenplays that went nowhere. But I did trim the fat from what I wrote.  I’ve motorcycle toured more than 250,000 miles through five western states, Canada and Mexico. Have Scuba-dived the California coast, Puget Sound, the Texas gulf, the Gulf of Thailand, the Sea of Cortez, the Florida Keys. I took three months to camp-tour in my Honda Civic around the US living in a one-man tent. I’ve traveled the Far East and still intend to finish up the rest of the world. In travel, I’m not fond of two-week or packaged tours. I go at it several months or more with no set itinerary. I’ve published 45 books -- the last five hardboiled crime noir novels in the past two years.
            I’m not sure how ordinary all this is.

Q: In the late sixties, one character cast a large shadow over all spy fiction, and that was James Bond. What traits did you take from Ian Fleming's famous creation? And what did you deliberately leave out?

GS: Too many people confuse James Bond the movies with James Bond the novels. Ian Fleming made a comfortable living writing his early books. As a former British agent, his schedule was to fly to Bermuda in January, take three months to write a James Bond novel, then back to England for his one-year comfortable life after it was published, then do it again the next year. The novels were good spy stuff, though a little dry for me. Then one day a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy who his favorite literary detective was. He said, James Bond. That put an end to Fleming’s comfortable lifestyle; he instantly rolled in wealth with unbelievable movies showing a fantasy world loosely based on his novels.
            I didn’t care for the first Bond movie because it bore little resemblance to Bond. But in time and after umpteen films, I’ve accepted that there are two platforms. There are the Bond movies, unrealistic and mainly action entertainment. And there are the long gone Bond novels, now imitation-written by others. The novels gave us up-to-date technology in spyware while the films give us gadgets.
            Nick Carter was supposed to be an American James Bond. I always considered his books just spy entertainment. Federal penitentiary prisoners love them. I wrote several of the almost 200 titles out there having sold millions of copies. Nick Carter books are closer to Bond than Hang Ten. Where Bond was slick in his philosophy, Cartwright was blue-collar; instead of brilliant deduction he used dogged determination; he moved along the fast food, beach shack, beach babes, burger and beers trail; he liked his scotch but he’d never say, “stirred, not shaken.” Nick Carter might.
            Even today, I tend to write blue-collar guys because that’s how I am.

Q: Operation Hang Ten was not the only series you were writing at the time. You were also working on the Nick Carter: Killmaster series. Was it hard to juggle the two series?

GS: I was dealing with two opposite personalities. The well-dressed calculating Nick Carter and the burger and babe, rich surf bum, Bill Cartwright (I still hate that name; my original name was Cody Falcon but no dice, sounded too much like a bird) Where I took my time was in putting together the first three chapters and outline. My outlines sometimes ran 25-30 pages. I wanted that to be my main labor, the hardest part, so I could buzz through writing the novel in the required six weeks. Once the publisher approved the three-chapters-and-outline (and I had half the advance), the gun was to my head and I had to hit the deck running. Maybe that wasn’t such a big deal. These days they have a contest to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, and I guess several enter. It isn’t anything I’d ever be interested in.
            I alternated between Hang Ten and Nick Carter. This was the early seventies, crap was going on in Vietnam, the government we had was more corrupt than those previous – or at least we knew more about it. Everybody had a bitch about something: the war, no gas, the race card, immigration, burning bras, a free love fantasy (it’s never free), communes, back-to-the-land—mostly, folks did a lot of whining and demonstrating, made noise.
Besides writing those two series, I still occasionally knocked off a short story, and wrote some sailing articles, I’d gotten heavy into sailing and intended to go around the world (who didn’t?). I bugged Lyle and the publishers, I wanted my own series guy in my own name controlled solely by me. All they replied, more books, give us more books. While I enjoyed the lifestyle the books paid, I’d grown weary of the battles. What editors wanted was woman empowerment and they wanted at least traces of that in every book published. As mentioned, I knew I was losing the war. I was ready for change. 

Q: What would you say were the main differences between Bill Cartwright and Nick Carter?

GS: Nick Carter was closer to James Bond, closer in attitude, working style, gathering clues and how he handled action. I think of Bond and Carter I think sophistication. When I think of Hang Ten, I think beach or alley fight. It’s like Nick Carter worked at being James Bond, the agent life most important. Bill Cartwright lived his life, enjoyed the surf girls, travel, parties…and was also a reluctant agent. He didn’t need the money; he did it for the action.

Q: Is there a place for either Carter or Cartwright in today's world?

GS: With editing dominated by women, probably not. The books are sexist. It would be difficult to use them for woman empowerment without losing their masculine zing. Men actually did read those books. I’d say three-quarters of my tavern buddies haven’t held a book in decades. While many books today are being published and read, especially now with digital and independent publishing, they all must satisfy current attitudes about the role of women in them. The blatant sexism of sixties and seventies paperbacks would be unacceptable. There are a few independents who defy custom—editors won’t accept what they write so they won’t write what editors accept. In queries, when I suggest my novels are similar to Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, John D. MacDonald, Richard Prather and some Lawrence Block, the claws come out and I’m informed those writers are immediately dismissed because of how they treated women in their books. Popular, modern writers like Dennis Lehane and Lee Child make sure the women in their books reflect standards set to show women equal men in every way. Even James Bond, the movies, has succumbed. Within the writing world, gentlemen, the ladies have us outnumbered so we give in or perish. The old attitudes will not swim today. I’m not saying it’s good or bad; certainly women like the improvement. I’m just saying, it’s different these days. It is often militant out there in the publishing world today.
Q: A major part of the counter culture movement was, of course, the sexual revolution, and spy books written at that time really cranked up the sexual shenanigans of their heroes – and heroines for that matter. This is even more apparent in the Nick Carter novels than the Hang Ten series. Nick certainly loved the ladies.  Although, possibly considered tame by today's standard, were you comfortable with writing the sex scenes? Was a high sexual content a prerequisite when writing in that era, and for that market?

GS: Here’s the thing about sex scenes. In the sixties and seventies and through the mid-eighties, paperback publishers required three sex scenes in every book; one toward the beginning, one in the middle, one toward the end. It was a rule writers fought because the scene often had little or nothing to do with the story. The loudest critic of the practice was John D. MacDonald because even lofty Fawcett Publications carried the silly rule.
            In the scene, no intimate body part could be described, nothing about how it felt, or juices, or tightness, or the actual act itself; no grunts, groans, squeals; words like “harder” or “faster”, or “Oh My God!” or “Here it comes!” The scene was supposed to be like syrupy movies when the camera shows fluttering curtains or bird-tweeting while the couple—out of sight-- humped each other like the plane was going down, on the bed, or table or couch, or car seat, or phone booth, or hanging from a chandelier. The act was supposed to be about lovemaking not fucking, nothing clinical.
            I had no heartburn writing those scenes. At the time I was getting more sex than I ever wrote about, more than at any time in my life, including when I was married. It was easy to recall one of my personal events and write it, toning down the description.
            Editors didn’t complain about my sex scenes, though they did send a Nick Carter manuscript back because my middle sex scene had been too light. Whatever the hell that meant. I jazzed it up but they ended up toning it back down a little.
            These days I don’t write sex scenes, I write sensuous innuendo, more about the build-up than the clinical act. Dialog is a wonderful invention for that. A man and a woman can get the reader breathing heavy before touching each other.

Q: Your output at the time was rather prodigious, releasing by my count, eight books in 1970, and six in 1971. Were there other projects that you were working on besides the two spy series?

GS: (Grant Fowler series?) I had little to do with the Grant Fowler series. I cleaned up one book in terrible shape but I was still working to get my own guy out there. During some evenings I did write a science-fiction novel about the war between men and women. It was eventually published thirty years later as Beyond Gender Wars after very heavy editing. I now have the rights again and have revised it back closer to the original, then released the revised edition. Not all editors are good editors.
            My character finally did emerge, Bay Rumble, a guy sailing the world on his self-designed, self built catamaran where he runs into murder and treachery. The fourth novel in the series, Baja Bullets, is released, with #5 Deadly Doubloons in outline form. The other three books are available through my Amazon site:   One area that may need clarification: In the old days, my writing day started at 6am, Monday through Friday, going after the ten pages a day, however long it took. I didn’t do any screwing around until Friday afternoon. While writing I was serious as a Monk. I wrote on a punishment/reward basis. Typing away, I allowed myself all the coffee I could drink but I could not eat anything until the ten finished pages were complete. It sometimes made for a long hungry day. During that block of time, I slammed the door on visitors and disconnected the phone, and shouted for people to stop bothering me and get lost, no doubt grumpy because I couldn’t eat. Women and friends who knew me and liked what they knew respected that. I didn’t care about anyone else. I usually had my ten pages around Noon or One. Then I was free to hug the girls and raise hell. But like Hemingway, I got to bed long before midnight because the work waited for me at six. Weekends, I went a little apeshit.
            When I moved out of the singles apartment complex (they started letting married couples in then couples with kids and dogs) and stopped writing the Hang Ten books, my life slowed. While I traveled there was less food, drink and making Mary. Over time, I stopped smoking and drinking and gave up the happy smoke. Years later I eased back to occasional beers and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and an occasional scotch. I never went back to dope.
            I’ve always continued to write. My guy Bay has been joined by two others: Logan Sand, an ex-fighter Northwest private eye with four books written. Next is Hard Trouble. And my newest creation, a tough PI gal out in the desert who lives in the fictional town of Branch Lake just north of Lake Havasu, Arizona. At a writers convention, agents (all women) said what the world needs are more tough gal PIs that are not man-written guys with a bra. I recall many realistic women characters written by men: Madame Bovary; Of Human Bondage; Memoirs of a Geisha, written first-person by a man. James M. Cain gave us Mildred Pierce. Even Robert B. Parker gave us Sunny Randall. At long last, I have my empowered woman.  My gal is Makayla “Mac” Tuff and she’s tougher than her last name. I’d created Mac before agents started making noise and already wrote a piece about her before the convention. One difference about Mac, she not only understands men but actually likes the way they act and think. I’m writing the fifth book in the series now—Easy Shot.
            Every now and then I get contacted about the old Hang Ten series. I think I’m the only one alive who was connected to it. Those were happy writing days and happy living days. I’m kind of old and beat-up now and not of much significance. Sometimes I still attract a good-looking woman but women don’t smile at me like they used to. I still enjoy their intimate company and how they look. I only wish they moved a little slower when they pass by me. I still travel and backpack and sail and ride my motorcycle…and write. 
            My books are available:

George, thank you for your time, and sharing your recollections and thoughts on a truly fascinating era in spy fiction.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

One Writer Connection: WHAT SELLS BOOKS

One Writer Connection: WHAT SELLS BOOKS: WHAT SELLS BOOKS — THE FIRST SENTENCE “The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book.” — Mickey Spillane   ...



“The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book.” — Mickey Spillane
Readers check online or wander through bookstores looking for something to read. What catches their eye first is the cover. The cover draws them to the book. A good cover will grab them by the front of the shirt and yank them to it, make them pick it up. There are few good covers today. Gone is the original art form used for paperbacks from the fifties, sixties into the seventies. Now covers come from an illustrated data base with photos, not art. But some of them may attract the reader. If so, readers pick up the book, turn to the back, and read the brief back cover synopsis. They check inside to see if the author is serious about the writing with several books, or just a one-shot, one-book wonder – or a beginner with this the first effort. Next they might thumb through pages to get a feel for the style. Rarely will they go to the end and read final pages. Eventually, they open to page one, chapter one, and read the first sentence. If that sentence grabs them, they will read the second, then the paragraph, then the chapter. If the writer has done it right, the reader is hooked and will buy the book.
My genre of writing is the noir hardboiled crime novel. Not many are writing in that field today. Agents and editors say there’s no market for such books. When you look at the dictionary meaning for ‘hardboiled’ nobody is writing them today. Today’s PI is usually an ex-cop still in bed with the police department through a buddy connection. Or they are so wrapped in their military past; the books have become military thrillers. Or, they have become bogged down in techno-babble with lots of parts to skip over. There are few rebel noir PIs closer to the criminal element than police connection, except maybe my guy, Logan Sand, and he’s been called tormented. 
            The masters of the genre were close to cops, were even ex-cops, but their relationship with police was as adversary to the point of hostility. The best of the genre is a criminal, not a PI, and as close to the defined hardboiled as they come—the Donald Westlake/Richard Stark character: Parker. Even his bad books are better than many coming out today. Most Parker novels open with the first word being ‘When’ which puts you right there.

            Articles in mystery magazines and blogs show what they call great openings. But those openings might stretch to more than one paragraph. The discussion here is the first sentence, and only the first sentence.  We begin with the masters and work our way down.

            Dashiell Hammett created Sam Spade and his ‘lanky sunburned girl’ secretary, Effie. The opening sentence for the classic 1929, “The Maltese Falcon” is a description of Spade: Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. The writing of that era demanded much more detailed character description than would be allowed today.

            As author of “Double Indemnity” and “Mildred Pierce,” James M. Cain did not have a hardboiled series character but shined at his best with his 1934, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” with a first sentence that gives us an idea where we’re headed:  They threw me off the hay truck about noon. That tells us what kind of character we’re dealing with.

            Creator of Phillip Marlow, Raymond Chandler sent his guy through many capers, “Farewell My Lovely,” “The Little Sister,” The Long Goodbye” and more. One of his best is his 1939, “The Big Sleep” quickly brought to public attention with the Lauren Bacall/Humphrey Bogart movie. Again this was an age that demanded much description which sometimes established mood: It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid-October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. This establishes not only mood but a sense of scene and time.

            Evan Hunter under his Ed McBain moniker created the 87th Precinct novels which frankly are about police procedure. He wrote a bunch of them. He did create a series character, Mathew Hope, who is an attorney. I’ve read a few and while enjoyable, I don’t consider Mathew Hope very hardboiled. Most hardboiled guys have some kind of ex-wife; it’s not good when they have kids they visit, as he does in his 1990, “Three Blind Mice.” Like Parker, Hope is written in third person. Unlike Parker, the POV constantly jumps around. Even this opening is not from Mathew Hope; it’s from the murder site: You woke up every morning on sodden sheets, the air heavy with moisture, the bloodred line of the thermometer already standing at seventy-five degrees, and you know the temperature would climb high into the nineties before the day was done. It is included because Ed McBain is as close to hardboiled as many others who have come along.

            I include one of my recent releases. Not a series character, but a noir hardboiled protagonist just the same, from the 2012 “Crossfire Diamonds.” It’s easy to pinpoint this guy’s personality: Colt Fallon figured he could shoot all three men from outside the no-glass mountain shack window. None of the characters in this novel step out of the hardboiled genre.
            And here is another one, the revised Bay Rumble crime novel, “Catalina Killers.” The bullet punctures in my shoulder and leg hurt like hell. Maybe somebody might want to know how that happened. 

            James Crumley is unappreciated and not near as popular as he should be. His guy, the PI C.W. Sughrue, who works a topless bar when he’s not sleuthing, adds to the meaning, hardboiled crime. What makes James Crumley a tough read for me is the wallowing in drink and drugs. C.W. is not just involved like most PI’s, he slobbers and blacks out in it. Nevertheless, the first sentence of the 1978 “The Last Good Kiss” is one of his best: When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. Some of his characters have names tough to pronounce. Notice the ‘when’ beginning.

Nobody is tougher than Parker. He has no first name, no wife, no permanent home. He has Claire, but when they met, she made so much noise he thought he might have to kill her. Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark created parker. Movies made are “Payback,” and the classic Lee Marvin, “Point Blank,” and the latest “Parker” with Jason Stratham.  In the forward for “Backflash,” Lawrence Block explains about the ‘When’ opening of most Parker novels. It’s action/reaction; when something happens, Parker reacts to it. Lawrence Block also has a list of ‘When’ from various Parker novels. The novels started in 1963, had a decade or so pause then began again. This is from the 1997 “Backflash” which has the classic opening I love: When the car stopped rolling, Parker kicked out the rest of the windshield and crawled through onto the wrinkled hood, Glock first.

From the 1963, “The Man with the Getaway Face:” When the bandages came off, Parker looked in the mirror at a stranger.

And this is my favorite opening, from the 1967, “The Rare Coin Score:” Parker spent two weeks on the white sand beach at Biloxi, and on a white sandy bitch named Belle, but he was restless, and one day without thinking about it sent a forwarding address to Handy McKay and moved on to New Orleans. No ‘When” in this first sentence but it still works. This is the novel where he meets Claire. 

Jack Reacher is an enigma for me. Created by the wildly popular, Lee Child, Reacher jumps from first person to third person in different books, and while I enjoyed, “The Killing Floor,” I didn’t care much for his, “Gone Tomorrow.” It was like, since he became rich and famous, he now writes rich and famous. While his early books might have been hardboiled crime, his latest read more like ex-military thriller, and the reader might skip past much techno-babble. Reading “Gone Tomorrow” I learned more about the New York subway system than I ever wanted to know—maybe fascinating to New Yorkers but for the rest of us, not so much. I found myself skipping through paragraphs.

Here is the opening sentence for “The Killing Floor:” Nathan Rubin died because he got brave. Good stuff, it makes you go for more.

            This is the opening sentence for, “Gone Tomorrow:” Suicide Bombers are easy to spot. Notice the subject difference? This does not read like hardboiled crime, more like ex-military thriller.

            Jack Reacher has many traits for the tough, hardboiled crime protagonist, but he doesn’t quite carry it off. Lee Child can continue making his fortune because I’m sure there is a sub-genre for ex-military thrillers.

            Finally, here are a couple more first sentences from my novels. From my previous publisher, Books-For-A-Buck Publishing, a hardboiled stand-alone crime novel, “The Farewell Heist:” When Ben Steele pulled five-hundred cash from the ATM on that warm April morning, he briefly thought of his criminal life. No question this is a heist novel.

            And “The Calcutta Dragon” introducing Logan Sand, a PI who builds boxes some call art, and is looking for a priceless brooch: When your girlfriend sticks herself with killing liquid and dies, you’re supposed to do something about it.

            This doesn’t even scratch the surface. There are Mike Hammer, Travis McGee, Mathew Scudder, Lew Archer, Jesse Stone, Spenser, Shell Scott, etc., and the stand-alone hardboiled master, Elmore Leonard, but this will show other writers and authors the value of the opening sentence and give readers something to look for.

Available books from Seaweed Library Publishing:



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Publishers and Money

          Two years ago, I went independent after getting my rights back from the three publishers that handled my stuff. They were good enough small publishers but not one paid a dime in advance against royalties.
          I didn’t make much money with them.
          I’m not getting rich as an independent, either.
          Some writers are so giddy a publisher will accept their stuff, they fail to study the background of those involved. Many eBook outfits are mom and pop stores with poor covers and only a token nod to POD paperback production. The writer makes more money per paperback than per electronic reader. Maybe more eBooks are sold but maybe not. The problem with marketing in paperback is it has to be on paper to the bookstore and/or reader, or in person. Free expensive books have to be given away. Online advertising might peddle eBooks but it won’t sell paperbacks.
          After half a century in this writing racket wandering through just about every aspect of the craft, from tech-writing to memoirs to non-fiction to screw-and-kill to children’s book to romance to science-fiction to crime novels, I managed to pick up a few clues.
          What is a sure-fire way for a writer to make big bucks cranking out wordage?
          There is none.
          The most bucks I ever made were writing aircraft structure repair manuals under hourly contract for big aerospace companies. That kind of money was obscene. When I moved to editor the work was less and the money more. I did it off and on direct for most of my life then retired and went contract. I was in my fifties, the wealthiest time of my life, which I had never known before and have not known since. I got there by paying my dues, started by serving my apprenticeship right out of high school as a machinist in Houston, Texas, going in the Navy to become an Aviation Metalsmith working on Navy jet fightersand writing my own stuff the whole while. Most of those around me, who wanted to tech write, came with a scholastic backgroundlearn writing then pick up the tech stuff as they went along. Anyone who can spell their name thinks they can write. Usually it didn’t work. As a scholastic underachiever, I came at it holding a wrench and getting dirty. I’m still not scholastic or intellectual, still banging around with that wrench, but it worked out okay.
          Back in the beginning, fresh out of the Navy, having read through not only the masters of literature, but also those heavy talents in the mystery field, renting a duplex with a wife and two babies, I worked as a machinist, and wrote stories before and after the job. I was used to getting up at three and four; I grew up with a series of paper routes. What I remembered most about my ten married years while working and writing was a constant fatigue. You couldn’t take me out to dinner on a Friday night; I was liable to fall asleep at the table. Self-taught and a few college courses, I wrote a story a week and sent them out. They came right back. Since I had neither formal learning nor talent to write literary stuff for the intellectual magazines, I tried to hit the mystery mags, and did sell a story to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
          One story.
          Repeated failures after convinced me, I had little talent for high-class mysteries. I started sending off to Men’s magazines and after a year, I began to sell fifty to seventy-five percent of everything I sent for $250 to $300 a story. Through advice from a magazine editor, I wrote and sold my first novel to an unheard of publisher in Las Vegas that cranked out eighty to a hundred titles a year destined for drug store magazine racks at 95¢ a copy. They paid me an advance of $500. I never made another doubloon from it. 
          An ad in Writer’s Digest attracted me. A huckster in New York needed twelve writers right away. He had an ongoing contract with a paperback house for a series of novels. This was screw and kill adventure stuff. He was paying $1,500 a book, half when the publisher approved the first three chapters and outline, half when the novel was completed. He required a 60,000 word novel within six weeks of signing the contract.
          (How many independent writers today would like a guaranteed $1,500 for each novel they wrote?)
          Where he eliminated 99.9% of rabid interested writers, he required they already have a novel published on their own by a legitimate publisher. I bundled up my one published novel and shipped it off to him. I guess that Vegas paperback house was legitimate enough because he called and asked when I wanted to get started.
          Real writers I knew laughed at me for taking a cash price while they continued making the rounds of agents and publishers only to paper their walls with rejection slips. They still hoped to get wealthy with a fat advance and royalties from hundreds of thousands of sold copies, someday. I made a living writing those novels for almost three years. Divorced from the one lifetime wife I’ve ever had, I kicked around the country meeting many interesting folks, but cranking out those novels every six weeks, I had little time to write the stuff I really wanted to write. I fell into a pattern of writing fast with lots of action. Good or bad, it’s what I was. I declared myself little more than a hack, and I quit writing those books.
          I hoped the books I wrote later read better. I did find publishers, especially after the eBook evolution, though many I rejected because of their lousy contracts. It puzzles me why these outfits that do so little for the writer still think they deserve the same cut as fat, advance paying publishers.
          Fact: Few books ever sell more than the advance against royalties. It is uncanny how close the figures come. Polls taken prove this again and again.
          So what is a writer to do to make good money?
          Hit a publisher that pays an advance against royalties. Then look at the deal as if you’re getting cash for you book only you get to keep many of the rights. If your marketing skills already give you more than medium size publisher advance, you don’t need a publisher, stay independent.
          However, many writers go independent because advance paying publishers will not consider their stuff. Either their subject is too off the wall, or they write what has already been done over and over, or they jump on a once-popular bandwagon that already has a broken wheelorthey just don’t write good enough to interest publishers, advance paying or not.
          I gave up on publishers to the point I don’t even let them know I’ve finished another book. I’m going to rethink that. I’ll send a few query letters to agents and advance paying publishers (not interested in any other kind) and when they ignore me, go ahead and independent publish just like I’m doing now.
          Independent publishing hasn’t worked so badly for me. Certainly, I’m not making the kind of money I’d like, but I’m finding a growing core of readers and the income continues to rise. And I continue to push marketing. Lately I’ve seen a marked rise in paperback sales.
          The learning process is constant. The world of publishing changes weekly.
          I hope your efforts are working for you.