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Posts tagged ‘Roll the credits’

Craig McDonald about the challenge of writing a series

November 29, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

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 Not the end of something?

By Craig McDonald

In autumn 2007, HEAD GAMES was published by Ben Leroy and Bleak House books.

It went on to earn best first novel nominations for the Edgar Award, the Anthony, and the Sélection du prix polar Saint-Maur en Poche in France, among others.

It also launched a series of ten novels featuring protagonist Hector Lassiter, pulp magazine writer, crime novelist and sometimes screenwriter.

Signing ARCs at Book Expo America 2007

Signing ARCs at Book Expo America 2007

Betimes Books has just published the climactic novel in the series, THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH, set in Nashville about a year after HEAD GAMES, and bringing back several characters from that first novel.

CHORDS was always envisioned as a kind of HEAD GAMES sequel and definitive circle-closer.

I actually wrote the “last” Lassiter novel many, many years ago, much of it in situ in Nashville, Tennessee. I interviewed various songwriters and sat in on sound-checks to gather source material and atmosphere.

But mostly, I focused on putting a capstone on the Hector Lassiter saga.

Few are the mystery series in my experience that round out with the fulfillment of a charted character arc or larger story.

Most series simply trail off into oblivion because of soft sales, or the death of their author.

If the series is particularly popular, when the creator dies, some other writer is brought in to keep churning out inferior, never quite satisfying continuations, again toward no planned end.

There are very few exceptions to this rule of the never-ending series.

Most of those that occur still don’t typically deliver a unified story arc carried to a planned climax built toward across the span of the series.

More often, some poor author gets a dire diagnosis and so races the clock to close out their series before they too are “closed out.”

Others elect to do something mirroring Agatha Christie’s strategy of writing a series closer well ahead of time, then holding it in reserve for posthumous publication.

(Though in the Dame’s case, even killing off her character didn’t stop others from publishing further Poirot novels following the appearance of CURTAIN.)

I’ve long acknowledged James Sallis’ cycle of Lew Griffin novels as the inspiration for the Lassiter series.

Dublin reading, August 2016

Dublin reading, August 2016

Sallis wrote an interconnected and finite series of novels that together tell a larger story and build to a final revelation regarding his central protagonist.

With the Lassiter series, I wanted to do something similar: Construct a series toward a known end, allowing each book to stand alone, more or less, but in sum telling a much larger story regarding the character of Hector Lassiter and his eventual fate.

It was an audacious or perhaps even foolish goal to write a whole series ahead of any contract commitments. Certainly, given what I now know of the vagaries and failings of much of the publishing industry, it was a very naïve and hopeful thing for a baseline cynic like myself to undertake.

Yet I wrote first drafts of the novels in the series in the space of about three months per title, back-to-back, working toward the known conclusion of this last, Nashville-set series-closer.

The later entries in the series were mostly well into composition before the second novel, TOROS & TORSOS, was even contracted for publication by Bleak House Books.

Please let me run a highlighter over that point: Most of the series, including the last volume, was virtually written before the second book reached the galley stage some time in the summer of 2008.

There was never any guarantee the books would all see print. There was every chance the project might stall around book four or five and the rest of the novels would remain in limbo.

The first translation: French (La tête de Pancho Villa, Editions Belfond, 2009)

The first translation: French (“La tête de Pancho Villa”, Editions Belfond, 2009)

But the series has hung in there, collecting an international audience through translations in Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Korean and Mongolian, among others.

In English language form, the Lassiter series currently encompasses four different publishers.

HEAD GAMES was also quickly optioned for graphic novel adaptation by First Second Books, prior to its Bleak House publication. I wrote the script for that project over a weekend nearly ten years ago (the art came much more slowly).

Next October, nearly ten years to the day that HEAD GAMES the novel was released, HEAD GAMES the graphic novel will at last appear.

A short story collection will also follow next year from Betimes Books, which now prints uniform editions of the entire series.

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Paris, March 2011

The short story collection will feature a never-before-published Lassiter novella set in the 1920s that roughly approaches the word count found in HEAD GAMES.

So while THREE CHORDS does represent the climax of the Hector Lassiter series as originally set forth, the Lassiter saga still has some moves left.

Hector has opened remarkable doors for me and provided international travel opportunities for my family.

He is forever there somewhere in my head, sometimes whispering in my ear. When you write this much about a single character for so long, you actually begin to see the world through his eyes.

Telling this storyteller’s story has resulted in years of wonderful correspondence and conversation with readers of all ages, nationalities and interests who’ve followed his saga.

I very much look forward to hearing the reactions to this “last” Hector Lassiter novel.

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 Contact us for a free electronic review copy!

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The Hector Lassiter book trailers

November 2, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

Dear readers,

You may not know it, but one of Craig McDonald’s many talents is producing spectacular video trailers for his books.

Discover the trailer for the Hector Lassiter series and meet “the man who writes what he lives and lives what he writes”: Tender, violent, intelligent, unwise, wanderer, fool for love, righteous, amoral, brave, elusive, arrogant, magnanimous, lonely, convivial,  self-absorbed, great-hearted Hector Lassiter.

On Craig McDonald’s blog, you will find trailers for each individual title,

including the forthcoming THREE CHORDS & THE TRUTH:

http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2016/10/hector-lassiter-book-trailer-countdown.html

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HEAD GAMES features in Amazon Australia’s Winter Sale

July 23, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

After the big success of the first five Hector Lassiter novels, Australian fans of the series can discover the now-cult  Edgar® Award finalist HEAD GAMES — for only AUS $0.99:

http://www.amazon.com.au/Head-Games-Hector-Lassiter-novel-ebook/dp/B00SFQEQ92/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1437602800&sr=1-6

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Read Craig McDonald’s blog post to learn more about the novel and the series:

http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2015/07/head-games-hello-again-australia.html

How I Came to Write “ROLL THE CREDITS” (aka Hector Lassiter & WWII)

May 25, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Craig McDonald about his inspiration for Roll the Credits. Fascinating!

Roll the Credits is, in short form, the Second World War and liberation of Paris seen through the eyes of author/screenwriter Hector Lassiter. But it’s also a special novel in the Lassiter canon for me. Long before RTC, there was the Lassiter entry Head Games. That novel was dedicated to the memory of my maternal grandfather, William Charles Sipe, Sr.”

Continue reading here: http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2014/09/how-i-came-to-write-roll-credits-aka.html

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Craig McDonald: “Why I write: One true sentence.”

April 10, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Why I Write

A while back, the wonderful Jen Forbus was collecting six-word memoirs from various crime and thriller writers.

The exercise was inspired, she wrote, by the line attributed to Ernest Hemingway (a frequent supporting character in my Hector Lassiter novels) that resulted from a challenge to craft an über short story. The result, legend has it, was pitched as a kind of classified ad by Hem: “For sale, one pair of baby shoes, never used.”

In my Lassiter novels, Hemingway and fellow novelist Hector play a game called “One True Sentence.” One of the authors starts a sentence, and the other tries to finish it in the most pithy way possible.

So, in the spirit of One True Sentence, and of the six-word memoir, this is the answer I gave Ms. Forbus about why I write, and, in the end, who I am:

Born to write; writing to live.

Craig McDonald is the author of the Hector Lassiter series and more: www.craigmcdonaldbooks.com

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Join the Hector Lassiter competition before March 15!

March 3, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Congratulations to the first ‪winners‬ of our Hector Lassiter competition‬, Larry S. of Owensboro, KY & Tom W. of Bridgeport, CT!

Don’t miss YOUR chance to win two Craig McDonald’s novels of your choice and join before MARCH 15!

Details here: The Hector Lassiter Competition

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 7

March 2, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

The clerk shrugged and slid across a ten-dollar bill at the old man who scooped it up.

Fragments of brick rained down on me. But my friends were safe. I crouched down behind some boxes filled with something I prayed was thick and hard. I aimed the first shooter’s discarded Thompson and fired back at the other machine gun’s muzzle flash. I held my thrumming machine gun with one hand.

It was murder on my right wrist. With the other bandaged hand, I fished out the keys to my Chevy and lobbed them over my shoulder at Bud — all that twisting and exertion was almost too much for my Orson Welles’-splintered ribs. I hollered over the din of the roaring machine gun, “You two go get to my car, and pick me up at the end of the alley. While you do that, I’ll keep this bastard busy.” Then I remembered fabled Fierro, and said, “Bud, you see any old Mexicans, you shoot ’em. Don’t hesitate. God’ll sort’em out on the other end. No shit — shoot first.”

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter Competition: Day 6

March 1, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

Hector sipped more of his wine. He said, “Progress?”

“Yes,” Gertrude said. “What have my mystifiers learned since last night?”

As if suddenly reminded about the body that had been sprawled there, Alice, carrying more glasses of wine for Ford and Joan Pyle, awkwardly stepped wide around that part of the floor.

Looking rather annoyed by tiny Alice’s stutter-step, Ger­trude said, “What have you gathered or learned since Estelle’s theory about poisoning has been borne out?”

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 5

February 28, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Which novel is this? Win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer!

Let’s drop that pretense,” she said, her hands clasping the back of his neck, urging his face down to her waiting mouth.

They’d kicked off the sheets and chenille bedspread — far too sweltering for those. The oscillating fans were no real help, either. Hector had left the venetian blinds cracked and bars of inky shadows criss-crossed his bed. The darkened room reeked of sweat and sex.

Hector didn’t know if it was the absinthe and the other liquor, the threat of the storm, or just Rachel’s own nature, but she was utterly abandoned — completely giving herself over to him.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter Competition: Day 4

February 27, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

“Old man, I do so appreciate you playing bodyguard to me,” Orson said. “I truly do. But I am racing the clock on multiple fronts as I’ve said, time and again. I have Danton’s Death to mount for the stage, as I’ve also told you, and this Sunday’s radio show, which as you heard for yourself, has all the earmarks of a train wreck barring some serious attention and artistic elbow grease.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Hector said. “And I won’t be under­foot, if that’s what you’re implying. I frankly don’t trust your memory about the medallion, so I want permission to ransack backstage, to comb through your wardrobe trunks and lockers.”

“Ransack away, but do it as neatly as you can,” Orson said. “John is very fussy. I’ll even let you start with my private dress­ing room. It’s packed with the surviving detritus of the career running all the way back to that first show in Dublin. But it’s a fruitless pursuit, I can already assure you of that.”

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

 

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 3

February 26, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

He held up his Zippo and opened it with a one-handed flick.

She leaned in, holding his hand to steady it. Her hand was still cold from the walk over from the brownstone. Or maybe it’s always cold, he thought.

“Like I said, it was obvious enough,” Hector said. “Meg never even confirmed it for me if that comforts you. Megan didn’t have to do that. Jimmy tumbled to it, too. We’re going to talk more about that topic, you and I, and I promise you that. Because I mean to know more about all of it and Meg isn’t sharing anything with me. And isn’t that ironic, given your wrong suspicions about Meg running her mouth? But you and I will have that conversation later, when it’s just us, alone.” Hector looked again at Shannon.

The diner door opened, letting in a chilly breeze. It was Meg. She’s taken some trouble with herself: her hair and makeup looked fresh. She must have hung her clingy dress in the bathroom while she showered because all the wrinkles had fallen out of it as if it had been steamed.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 2

February 25, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

“The kind of woman a man would burn his life down for,” Hector said, “I know.” Hector specialized in writing such women.

“That’s it, exactly,” von Sternberg said. He appropriated Hector’s second coffee as the waiter sat it on the table. He said to the waiter, “I’ll need cream and sugar for this, too.”

“And a second black coffee,” Hector said, eyeing his stolen java.

“It would be easier, marginally easier, I think, if we weren’t filming in German and in English,” von Sternberg said.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

The Hector Lassiter competition: Day 1

February 24, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

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Tell us which novel is this and win two Hector Lassiter e-books of your choice if you are one of the first three people to give the correct answer:

The clerk shrugged and slid across a ten-dollar bill at the old man who scooped it up.

The old man frowned. “Oh, must have miscounted.” He put down another dollar bill and said, “Here’s one more dollar for ten. So we don’t get confused, you’ve got ten there on the counter. Here’s another two fives. How about you just give me my original twenty back and we’ll call it even?”

The clerk smiled. “Sure.” He passed the old man a twenty-dollar bill.

The old man accepted the twenty. Behind his back, the old man held a ten-dollar bill between his fingers, waving it at the woman behind him. He felt the bill tugged from his fingers. Heard a whispered, “God bless you, sir.”

The old man smiled at the clerk, struck a match on the counter and lit a cigar. He blew a smoke ring at the man and said, “Pleasure doin’ business with you, old pal.”

The old man waited just long enough to confirm the woman’s ticket purchase for her child was consummated. When the transaction was closed, the old man smiled and stepped out onto the dock and into the ragged line to board the ship. He figured he’d be safely in dock on the other side before the clerk realized the shortage in his bill tray.

Email your answer to betimesbooks@gmail.com

“The Running Kind” by Craig McDonald is released!

December 8, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Hector Lassiter #6 is released!

“What critics might call eclectic, and Eastern folks quirky, we Southerners call cussedness — and it’s the cornerstone of the American genius. As in: “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and my way.” You want to see how that looks on the page, pick up any of Craig McDonald ‘s novels. He’s built him a nice little shack out there way off all the reg’lar roads, and he’s brewing some fine, heady stuff. Leave your money under the rock and come back in an hour.” —James Sallis

“The Running Kind” is available here: viewBook.at/RunningKind_ebook
viewBook.at/RunningKind-print

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The Hector Lassiter series #1 Kindle bestseller in Australia!

November 17, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

During a Kindle Daily Deal promotion, all five published Hector Lassiter novels on the Movers & Shakers page:

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And after the promotion ended, at full price — before “Gone Girl” and the new Michael Connelly novel!

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Craig McDonald about his participation in the Iowa City Book Festival

October 6, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2014/10/the-iowa-city-book-festival-remembrance.htmlimage

Craig McDonald at Iowa City Book Festival!

October 3, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Craig McDonald’s books next to James Ellroy’s at their joint signing at Iowa City Book Festival last night.

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HOW I CAME TO WRITE “ROLL THE CREDITS”

September 28, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Craig McDonald about writing “ROLL THE CREDITS” (AKA HECTOR LASSITER & WWII).  A fascinating insight: http://craigmcdonaldbooks.blogspot.ie/2014/09/how-i-came-to-write-roll-credits-aka.html

“The Great Pretender” and “Roll the Credits” now available as e-books!

September 26, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

THE GREAT PRETENDER by Craig McDonald available here: getBook.at/TheGreatPretender_eb

ROLL THE CREDITS by Craig McDonald available here: getBook.at/RollTheCredits_eb

 

 

THE (IM)PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY by Craig McDonald

September 19, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

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Retcon.

That’s a relatively newish term that’s a contraction for “retroactive continuity.”

Typically you’re going to run into this when a long-running print or film series reckons it’s time to inject fresh blood or your lead actor has to be recast.

Take the current Bond flicks as voguish example: Daniel Craig enters as a tyro, newly-minted 007 who reports to an aging female M. But wait: that same M was introduced as Bond’s new boss when Pierce Brosnan took over from two-time 007 Timothy Dalton after previous Bond Roger Moore packed it in. However, before that, George Lazenby succeeded Sean Connery who…

Yes, this sort of thing can make your head explode.

Best to simply suspend disbelief and roll with reshaped reality, right?

Comic book companies build lucrative empires on events that raise the concept of retcon to an epic level. They upend universes, slaying hosts of favorite characters to create some dodgy New World Order, then, when sales again flag, they retcon again (yes, it’s a verb and a noun).

The dead are deftly resurrected. Newly created heroes who misfired or failed to prove-out disappear like jowly 007’s into that not-so-gentle night.

I wrote the entire Hector Lassiter series as a larger saga from the starting gate, putting down nearly all the first drafts before the second book in the series was contracted for publication. But only four novels of a completed nine were published between 2007-11.

As originally presented, those first four novels could be regarded as overt retcons.

Playing with readers’ minds and perceptions was an intent I had from Hector’s conception. The “first” Lassiter novel’s title was also a mission statement.

I was jazzed by the notion of giving the world a novel about this particular man, writer/screenwriter Hector Lassiter, then re-contextualizing that man across successive novels. Time was used in a very unusual and radical way in the novels as originally written and sequenced.

Individual novels—always for story reasons—sometimes spread across several decades. But more, the novels jumped around in time, book to book.

The first novel in the original publication sequence, Head Games, opened in 1957. The second, Toros & Torsos, kicked off on Labor Day weekend of 1935. The third novel, Print the Legend, opened in July 1961 and the fourth, One True Sentence, extended over the course of a single week in February, 1924.

As Betimes Books issues all of the Lassiter volumes in the weeks ahead, the “old” and the “new” in a concentrated burst, we are also endeavoring to do so in as close to chronological order as individual titles allow.

James Sallis observed time can be as much a character in a novel as any man or woman an author chooses to place on the page.

Time, particularly as it progresses in fiction, can also be an alchemist.

As my novels began being distributed in 2007 (the first, Head Games, at least appears to end like no other novel launching a series ever ended), I came to see reader regard for Hector Lassiter was radically shaped by the first novel they read.

In interviews during those years, I made a point of stating that since the novels were presented out of chronological order, in theory, a reader could start with any of the books. “Read ’em as you find them,” was a marketing motto: No harm, no foul. It was true, at least up to a point.

But if you start with Head Games, the emotionally wounded widower who tells that tale is the Hector Lassiter who looms largest for you. I came to see that version of Hector bonded far differently with first-timers than did the dashing, twenty-something young Hector stalking the streets of 1920s Paris in OTS, seeking his writer’s voice, hobnobbing with Hemingway and questing to craft one true sentence.

Publishing the books in chronological fashion quite frankly changes everything. Lassiter number four for instance, the aforementioned One True Sentence, now opens the series.

Because of this re-sequencing, the larger saga now follows Hector from his apprenticeship to his distant period as a literary lion in winter.

This new sequence also required me to revisit my books in chronological order for the first time. Reflect on that for a moment. I didn’t write Hector Lassiter’s story, womb to tomb. Not even close.

You see, if the Lassiters were sequenced far differently in their original print sequence, the order in which I originally composed them was even more radically at variance. I didn’t start Hector at point A and go to Z. There was none of that expected alpha to omega stuff, not at all.

I started Hector at age 57, then went all over the place with him. The resulting writing effort was a little like playing three-dimensional chess in terms of maintaining any semblance of continuity.

Oddly enough, revising and reading proof of the novels and short stories for Betimes—essentially for the first time as his creator watching Hector grow older if not always up—has been a revelation.

I wrote this man to have a far larger character arc that would thematically bind the series into an overarching story.

Only now do I see how much more poignantly that larger story emerges when Hector’s life is viewed in something close to straight-ahead fashion.

For established readers, I invite you to revisit the novels in this new, “proper sequence,” as I have been doing these past few months. I think you may find, as I did, that everything old is new again.

—Craig McDonald, September 2014

 

THE BETIMES BOOKS SEQUENCE FOR THE HECTOR LASSITER SERIES:

One True Sentence

Forever’s Just Pretend

Toros & Torsos

The Great Pretender

Roll the Credits

The Running Kind

Head Games

Print the Legend

Three Chords & The Truth

Write From Wrong (The Hector Lassiter short stories)

 

THE LASSITER NOVELS IN COMPOSITION SEQUENCE:

Head Games

Toros & Torsos

One True Sentence (Working title, City of Lights)

Print the Legend (Working title, Papa’s Last Wife)

Forever’s Just Pretend (Variously, The Last Key/Never Send ’Em To the River)

The Running Kind

Three Chords & The Truth (Gnashville)

Roll the Credits

The Great Pretender