From Paused To Un-Pause.

I’ve been more or less on ‘pause’ with my own writing projects since late March. Specifically, the outreach/submission chores have been on hold, for good or bad, waiting till Labor Day before ‘un-pausing’.

Queries previously circulated for the completed The Stiletto Gumshoe novel (that’s actually not it’s title) while I continued work on its follow-up for a hoped-for mystery/crime fiction series. But with NYC the epicenter of all-things-bad back in the Spring, it seemed sensible to halt any further outreach. Considering the frustrating ratio of replies (even when they’re ‘thanks-but-no-thanks’) to so-called NORMANS (no reply means a no), why send things out to empty workstations and unopened inboxes? Offices had emptied out, folks were huddling in their homes and apartments, and we all had bigger things on our minds than genre fiction queries.

Things loosened up a little in some parts of the country (New York in particular) while we drifted into Summer, a time of year considered by many (though not all) as the publishing marketplace’s down-time. Though ‘real’ Summer’s still with us for another two weeks-plus, Labor Day’s the traditional end of the season, and I’m ready – even eager – to get going again. So, just to get back in the groove, I pulled the untouched-for-months manuscript out and gave it another once-over…what writer can forego making another tweak or two? 

As for the in-progress sequel? It hasn’t progressed as much as I’d like, not for lack of inspiration or due to writer’s block, but simply a matter of time. I never could’ve foreseen how the day job would change once everything went haywire back in late March: Staff working from home, me on-site, access to assets, info and more from Brazil, Germany, the UK and other faraway places all delayed. Bottom line: Everything takes half again longer than usual to complete. Mind you, there’ll be no whining here. I’m working. So many still are not. 

Writing, publishing and bookselling sites, blogs and the trade press provide a mixed bag of news and opinions on what’s-what in the marketplaces. The good news: Print unit sales have been up, by more than anyone foresaw, and the numbers seem to show some staying power. On the other hand, book production’s been disrupted, not only by pandemic related issues but supply-chain and other problems with the main book printing mega-companies. Still, new titles are coming out. Deals are being made. All eyes may be on the latest political tell-all hardcover right now, but we assume that’ll fade sometime soon. So, while pressing pause when the pandemic first swept over the country and everything initially shut down seemed prudent, lingering in neutral for too long can only lead to inertia. Time to get back to work.

Literary Agent Jessica Faust’s excellent Bookends Literary Agency blog (link below) recently posted “Keep Moving Forward”, recounting the ups and downs (mostly ups) of the scary days in the Spring, and offers, “My tip for my clients is the same as I gave my agents. Keep moving forward…Keep submitting, even if it’s summer or a pandemic or the world looks bleak. Keep moving forward and controlling the one thing you can control: What you’re doing.”  Makes sense to me. Whatever the ‘new normal’ is or will ultimately be, there’s no point sitting on the sidelines with a wait-n-see attitude. So next week I’ll reopen that buzzkill of a query/submission spreadsheet, revisit my continually-added-to literary agent lists, revise and refresh my queries and get back to work. 

Y’know, I’m getting revved up already.

Keep Moving Forward

Photos: Laura Chouette, Natalia Drepina, Janko Ferlic

A Mid-Fifties ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’.

True-Detective-October-1954 mort kuntsler copy 2

This particular true crime pulp cover has been one of my personal favorites and residing in a ‘The Stiletto Gumshoe’ folder stuffed full of 1950’s/60’s photos, ads and historical references. Sure, you’ll find more exciting, violent, lurid or blatantly ‘sex-ified’ covers among 1950’s crime fiction and true crime pulps than this October 1954 issue of True Detective magazine, which touted cases inside like “The Murder Minded Lawyer Of Lake Wales” and a double-length feature, “Daughter’s Revenge”. This particular plainly attired snoop was but one of many vintage paperback and pulp magazine covers that planted the seeds of inspiration for my own current projects, and could almost be ‘The Stiletto Gumshoe’ herself.

Often as not, postwar pulp and paperback covers weren’t even credited. I’ve seen this one attributed to Mort Kunstler at more than one site now, but in what may or may not be more authoritative art auction sites, it’s credited to Lu Kimmel (1905 – 1973), so I’ll go with that. Smack my forehead…I always thought it was a photo, not an illustration.

Words & Pictures

The Brass Cupcake 2

Book titles have been on my mind lately. While doing some routine computer housekeeping to finally read, file or toss the zillion things I collect, I found myself marveling at so many retro mystery/crime fiction novel and pulp magazine story titles. Say what you want about vintage genre fiction, but those writers sure could concoct some terrific titles.

The fact is, I’d been struggling with titling my own projects, originally doing some querying with just a working title (Surprise: “The Stiletto Gumshoe”) but then fretting that the title might give the wrong impression. Considering that queries and subs often garner no more than a few seconds of a busy agent or editor’s attention – if that – did I really want to stick with a title that sounds more like a ‘mystery-lite’ novel or shopaholic mystery about a modern-day well-heeled dilettante running down clues in her Louboutins?

Sure, cover art ultimately brings a book’s title to life and telegraphs the novel’s message. But in the manuscript stage, the ‘cover art’ is 12 pt. Times New Roman type on plain white 20 lb. bond or much more likely a screen…or something even more generic keyed into online submission/query forms.

Publishers Weekly

Jim Milliott reported on the importance of book titles in last week’s Publishers Weekly: “Judging A Book By Its Title” (link below), sub-headed with, “A recent test found that titles can be more important than cover art in attracting prospective readers”. Milliott writes about a Codex Group research study presenting over 50 upcoming titles to some 4,000 participants in order to probe what piqued readers’ interest or might impact purchase decisions. Book buyers being word lovers by nature, it might come as no surprise that titles, not cover art, prompted decision making, at least according to the Codex Group study. Reading Milliott’s article further, though, I’m not so sure, particularly when he quotes an Amazon creative director, who recognizes the importance of “the interplay between the title of the book and the visuals on the cover”.

The Brass Cupcake Barye Phillips 1958

If you’re reading this and follow or visit here, you already know I’m fixated on cover art…contemporary or retro, photo or illustrated. I pondered some mystery/crime fiction titles I’ve always loved…John D. MacDonald’s The Brass Cupcake came to mind as just one particular fave, for example, and I peeked at different editions of that book, from what I think is its first release from 1950 (at the top of this post) to what may be the best known, a 1958 edition with a Barye Phillips illustration (just above) and various other editions. Each says something a little different, accurate or not.

Brass Cupcake - Montage

If you’re a published writer, you may have books on shelf with covers so beautiful they could make you weep, and others you prefer to hide in your sock drawer. Or, if you’re still looking forward to the day when your name will be emblazoned on your first book, you’ll have ample time to fret about the cover art…and little voice in what it ends up as, no doubt. And if you’re an avid reader squandering too much dough on books (like me) you know how titles and cover art have lured you in…happily, sometimes…and sometimes not.

I’m experimenting with titles right now, sending out with “Title A” vs. “Title B” to see if it matters, naturally petrified that the options are awful. “The Stiletto Gumshoe” doesn’t have the zing of The Brass Cupcake. But then, what does?

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/82381-judging-a-book-by-its-title.html

 

She Could Be “The Stiletto Gumshoe”…

by mike redman

So well composed and deceptively simple looking, this piece by UK artist Mike Redman is almost as much a graphic design as it is an illustration. I think it always catches my eye because it reminds me so much of my own in-progress work on ‘The Stiletto Gumshoe’, Sharon Gardner (real name Sasha Garodnowicz) described as “more comfy atop a barstool than behind a receptionist’s desk”.

This art pops up frequently at Pinterest, Tumblr and random blogs…it’d be nice if Redman’s name accompanied the image more often…

Resolutions: None. Only An Agenda.

New Years Eve 2020

With that clock ticking closer to midnight, this duo looked more apprehensive than enthusiastic. Perhaps, like many, they failed to make a suitable list of New Year’s resolutions for 2020.

Count me among that lot.

I have no resolutions for this new decade (which I realize technically doesn’t commence until 2021), knowing from prior experience that I’d never keep them anyway. My vices are few, drinking modestly (if even that), donut shop coffee my drug of choice, reasonably thrifty, diligent in the day job, unfailingly (and happily) faithful in my relationship.

Confession: I smoke, and resolving to quit would be the very best resolution. But I know I won’t, at least not now, so why kid myself? So then…what else? Eat healthy? Exercise more? Be more charitable, kinder to strangers, start going to church?

I don’t do resolutions, but I do have an agenda for 2020.  Not so different than my 2019 agenda, with some tweaks to my writing endeavors: Table The Stiletto Gumshoe’s sequel temporarily, concluding it’s presumptuous to work on the second book of a planned series when the first hasn’t even been sold, much less agented yet. But the agenda includes a refusal to lose heart while continuing the humbling (or soul-crushing) querying process. It’s not rejections that sting. Those are fairly few and, often enough, come with genuinely encouraging remarks. It’s the non-responses that bruise some, and it seems they’ve become the industry norm. But the agenda’s full with short fiction projects for The Stiletto Gumshoe and other things, coupled with a renewed zeal to pay more attention to short fiction markets, contests and competitions, anemic or non-existent compensation aside. Keeping up with all that while aiming for some better balance of ‘real’ writing time and lazy-ass blog-hobbying time is enough of an agenda for my 2020. So, here’s hoping for a happy and productive 2020, for me and all of you!

See You In The Next Decade.

Montage copy

The Stiletto Gumshoe will be away till the next decade (2020), enjoying an overdue holiday-over-the-holidays.

This eerily foggy Christmas Eve morning feels more like Autumn than December, likely to hit the mid-50’s this afternoon. But last I checked, there’s just a whisker-shy of two feet of snow on the ground where I’m headed, and that ought to be suitably seasonal. While I won’t exactly be ‘off the grid’, I’ll be darn close, with no cable, satellite dish, streaming or internet/email, and wi-fi’s a ten-mile drive away. Heck, cell/text is a bit spotty. That might not sound good to you, but I can’t wait. The halls have already been decked with boughs of holly…or at least, a tree, wreaths and other stuff. Ample provisions have been stowed away, a good supply of firewood piled up, a selection of Xmas CD’s and movies have been packed, the latter a mix of Christmas classics and darker noir and neo-noir-ish faves set at Christmas time (The Stiletto Gumshoe can’t survive on White Christmas alone).

Family will be close at hand. No skiing or snowmobiling planned, but with an aged but beloved furry four-footed friend likely to be having his last Christmas, there’ll be some romps among the snow-covered pines, I’m sure. What there won’t be are day job commutes, last minute client emergencies-that-aren’t, mall trips, parking lots, UPS/FedEx tracking of overdue presents, obligatory extended family get-togethers or jousting with MAGA hat wearing relatives. And no querying, blogging, texting or emailing. If I get the urge, I can always fire up the laptop to pound some keys beside the tree. Fireside reading in a comfy chair? I’m bringing Benjamin Moser’s hefty 800+ page bio of Susan Sontag, Sontag – Her Life And Work, Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon and Marcos Martin’s Batgirl – Year One: The Deluxe Edition hardcover and my first-ever Danielle Steele novel, her new release, Spy. And odd mix? Yeah, I suppose so.

There’ll be a merry missive here tomorrow, but that aside, this is it for 2019. So, my very sincere holiday wishes to all visitors, lurkers and especially my followers here at thestilettogumshoe.com both at WordPress and Tumblr. See you in 2020!

Maybe Next Year…

Maybe Next Christmas

No, The Stiletto Gumshoe won’t be in anyone’s Christmas stocking this year, least of all mine. Perhaps I spent 2019 being naughty when I should’ve been nice. Still, I’m thinking positive thoughts for 2020, and am one of those naive types who truly believe that diligence pays off (even if I’ve been proven wrong in the past). So I know what I hope to find under my tree next year: Not baubles or bangles. Just a book, and one book in particular…

Happy Anniversary…To Me.

Paper Anniversary

So, I see that the traditional one year anniversary gift is paper. Well, wedding anniversaries, at any rate. Which I guess means that I can treat myself to a ream of 20 lb. bond at Staples.

I don’t know the precise date I originally launched The Stiletto Gumshoe site at Tumblr (short-lived as that was) but I do know that later I re-launched things at WordPress on December 10th, 2018. So a happy one-year anniversary to me, and a big thanks to the many visitors, browsers, lurkers, readers and especially the followers (both here and at Tumblr). I never expected to hook very many followers. Just as well, since I really haven’t, though I cherish each and every one. In fact, as of yesterday, I acquired as many at Tumblr in only four+ months as I have here at the main site in a full year (not counting the many suspicious followers with empty blogs or eyeball-melting porn posts).

For several months now, I’d promised myself that at the one-year mark I’d learn to relax a bit with a more leisurely posting pace. Not out of laziness, but only to allot more time for ‘real’ writing activities. I have an aggressive 2020 agenda in mind on that front. But the WordPress and Tumblr blogospheres will be no worse off for me skipping a day here and there.

So again, a sincere thanks to everyone who’s popped in to ‘The Stiletto Gumshoe’ for a peek or a visit, and especially to those of you who linger to root around the archives and to become followers…and a Happy Anniversary to…well, me.

No Going Back.

Tumblr-Wordpress

Not ‘going back’ to Tumblr, but I am expanding to Tumblr. If you’re visiting here and unable to follow this site because you’re not signed up at WordPress or a blog aggregator,  but happen to reside at Tumblr, then you can follow along from there. New posts (starting with August 2019) will automatically appear at thestilettogumshoe.tumblr.com, the short ones appearing intact, longer ones with a feature image, opening text and handy link to the post at this source blog.

The Stiletto Gumshoe blog actually started at Tumblr in Autumn 2018, but I closed that down in December after barely two months of activity and started over on the WordPress platform. Tumblr was going through some changes at the time. I didn’t leave Tumblr in protest (though I know many did) but because some of Tumblr’s more out-there content was troubling, and whether they’ll admit it or not, the platform’s plagued by pornbots, spammers and hackers (and still is, I suspect). For more on that, refer to “A Tumblr Refugee” from late December (link below).

Still Tumblr’s super-simple social media aspect remains a lure. The Stiletto Gumshoe’s been up at WordPress for eight months with 400 posts, just under 4,000 visitors, over 7,500 views and over a thousand Likes. Which is nice, but experienced bloggers would snicker at those numbers, and the site hasn’t even topped a hundred followers yet. While this isn’t the sort of destination that’ll ever draft thousands of followers, there’s not much point to crafting content that goes unseen. Cross posting to Tumblr can only increase exposure.

The Stieltto Gumshoe Dot Com

So, visit however you like: thestilettogumshoe.com. thestilettogumshoe.wordpress.com. thestilettogumshoe.tumblr.com. All routes will lead back here, and given some time, I’ll make a point of retrieving older content to get it posted a bit at a time at Tumblr.

P.S. You can also ogle lots of random visuals (with frequent links back to here) at Pinterest if you like: https://www.pinterest.com/stilettogumshoes/

“A Tumblr Refugee” 12.2018 Post: https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2018/12/27/a-tumblr-refugee/

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