Welcome to my monthly musings, on topics ranging from the writing process to books and authors I admire to whatever else might spark my interest and imagination.  I hope that through these essays you’ll get to know me, and that from your comments (please post them below), I’ll get to know you.  I’ve begun, by way of introduction, by recounting my unlikely journey from L.A. trial lawyer to published novelist.  Just start from the bottom and work your way up.  And if anything tickles your fancy, feel free to share it.  You have my permission.

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When It’s Time to Part With Your Agent

One question an author often hears is, “How did you find an agent?”  In my case, therein lies a tale, and I’ve told it to my friends over at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Comment on the piece before Sunday at noon (rocky mountain time) and you could win a signed book.

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Read an Excerpt from The Last Heir

 

Last HeirYou can take Jack out of L.A. — in this case, all the way to Napa Valley — but you can’t take the L.A. out of Jack, as this excerpt from THE LAST HEIR at CriminalElements.com conclusively proves.

Meanwhile, I talk to The Sirens of Suspense about the writing process, and how my three careers — lawyer, author, and vigneron — all came together for this book:

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The Cuckoo Case

judges-wig-and-gavelIn today’s news, the lawyer who “leaked” J.K. Rowling’s secret identity as Robert Galbraith was fined for breaching a client confidence.  Below is my version of what might have happened had the case gone to trial.


 

News Item:  J.K. Rowling Settles Legal Action With Russells Solicitors – UPI

News Item:  Lawyer Behind J.K. Rowling ‘Galbraith’ Leak Fined £1,000 – The Bookseller

BAILIFF:  Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye!  The Queen’s Bench Division of Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice is now in session, the Honorable Percy Utley-Hampstead presiding.

THE COURT:  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are here today in the matter of Rowling v. Russells Solicitors, et al., which is a civil action for damages resulting from the defendants’ alleged leak of the plaintiff’s secret identity.  Mr. Mayhew, please call your first witness.

MORTIMER TIPTON-MAYHEW, QC:  Thank you, your Lordship.  The plaintiff calls, well, the plaintiff, Ms. Joanne Rowling.

THE WITNESS, MS. ROWLING, IS DULY SWORN.

BY MR. TIPTON-MAYHEW:  Please state your name for the record.

MS. ROWLING:  I’m afraid that’s rather complicated.

TIMOTHY ERSKIN-FINCH, QC:  Objection!

THE COURT:  Quite right, Mr. Mayhew.  We must have the witness’ name.

MS. ROWLING:  Very well.  I am J.K. Rowling.

MR. TIPTON-MAYHEW:  Your occupation, madam?

MS. ROWLING:  I am an author.  Not only of the beloved young adult fiction for which I am world-famous, but also of literary fiction and now, under the name Robert Galbraith, of crime fiction as well.

MR. TIPTON-MAYHEW:  Bit of an all-rounder, one might say?

MS. ROWLING:  One might.

MR. TIPTON-MAYHEW:  Please describe the injury you suffered as a result of the defendants’ disclosure that the true author of the novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, published under the pseudonym of this Galbraith chap, was in fact you, the famous J.K. Rowling.

MS. ROWLING:  I was angry and distressed that my confidences had been betrayed, and this was very much aggravated by repeated speculation that the leak had been, in fact, a carefully-coordinated publicity stunt by me, my agent, and my publishers to increase sales.

MR. TIPTON-MAYHEW:  Thank you, madam.  No further questions.

THE COURT:  Cross-examination?

BY MR. ERSKIN-FINCH:  Thank you, your Lordship.  Now Ms. Rowling, the income from your novels and related properties has made you the thirteenth wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom, has it not?

MS. ROWLING:  Twelfth, thirteenth.  Who’s counting, really?

MR. ERSKIN-FINCH:  Wealthier than Her Majesty, the Queen?

MS. ROWLING:  Well . . .

MR. ERSKIN-FINCH:  And yet The Cuckoo’s Calling sold only a few hundred copies until your true identity was revealed, after which the book leapt to the top of the bestseller lists, prompting your publisher to print an additional 140,000 copies.

MS. ROWLING:  All true.

MR. ERSKIN-FINCH:  Will you please explain to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury how it’s possible that you’ve been damaged by overnight success and millions upon millions in sales revenue?

MS. ROWLING:  Gladly.

(THE WITNESS TURNS TO THE JURY.)

When I first wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I didn’t set out to be rich or famous.  No, I only wanted to be a writer – an ink-stained wretch in a ratty track suit, eating tinned anchovies and ignoring personal hygiene, spending nine, ten hours a day for years on end squinting at a blinking cursor and ruing the day I’d begun this godforsaken, soul-sucking novel that no one but my dog would ever read.  You see, I wanted to suffer.  I wanted to endure rejection and condescension from agents and editors who’d never actually written anything in their lives.  Scorn from the publishers of diet books, and celebrity memoirs, and cozy mysteries with titles like Death Takes a Hollandaise.  Pity from friends and family.

And then I wanted to sign a publishing contract – oh, happy day! – with a £1,000 advance against a ten percent royalty, only to pay for my own jacket photograph, my own publicist, my own book tour.  I wanted to post status updates on Facebook touting my latest review on Goodreads.  I wanted to attend writers’ conferences at my own expense, where I’d be charged tuition in order to sit on panels with names like “Crafting the Query Letter” and tell starry-eyed newbies how they too might one day live the glamorous life of the writer.

But alas, it was never to be.  The Harry Potter books were a sensation, and you know the rest.  Translation into sixty languages.  Hundreds of millions sold.  Then the film franchise, and the theme park.  Soon I’d amassed a personal fortune of over £500 million.  The dream, of course, was dead.

THE COURT:  A tissue, Ms. Rowling?

MS. ROWLING:  Thank you, your Lordship.

And then one day it hit me – the dream wasn’t dead after all!  I could simply start over, not as J.K. Rowling, world’s most successful living author, but as Robert Galbraith, a former Royal Military Police investigator turned debut crime novelist.  That was the ticket!  And it was going quite brilliantly – obscurity, poor sales – when suddenly it all fell to pieces.  Success, that cruel and fickle mistress, had returned again to haunt me, leaving me with only one alternative.

MR. ERSKIN-FINCH:  Litigation?

MS. ROWLING:  Naturally.  Somebody had to pay.
Chuck Greaves is the author of three novels, most recently Green-Eyed Lady (Minotaur).

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Storyteller’s Anthology

SouthWest Writers is a New Mexico-based nonprofit dedicated to inspiring, nurturing, and supporting authors of both fiction and nonfiction throughout the world.  As a second-career novelist looking to break into publishing, it was through winning the SouthWest Writers International Writing Contest in 2010 that I landed my New York literary agent and, soon thereafter, contracts with both New York and London-based publishing houses.  You might say that I owe SWW my present career.

In 2012, the SWW offices in Albuquerque were severely damaged by flooding, forcing the organization both to move and to acquire new furniture, fixtures, and equipment.  In an effort to recoup some of the attendant costs, SWW decided in late 2013 to publish an anthology of original short stories, essays, and book excerpts.  All proceeds from the sale of The Storyteller’s Anthology will go to SWW and will allow them to continue their important mission.

I was pleased to be one of the 40+ authors – a distinguished group that includes David Morrell, Anne Hillerman, Jonathan Miller, and S.H. Baker – invited to contribute to the anthology, which was ably edited by Peggy Herrington.  I would invite all of my friends and readers to consider buying a copy.  When you do, you’ll be supporting SWW and guaranteeing yourself hours of quality entertainment.  And as an extra bonus, many of the contributing authors will be appearing live at Bookworks in Albuquerque (4022 Rio Grande Boulevard NW) at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, 2014 to sign copies of The Storyteller’s Anthology.

Great reading for a great cause.  What better way to kick off the new year?

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Hard Twisted now in paperback!

hard_twisted pbI’m pleased to announce that today is publication day for the U.S. trade paperback of HARD TWISTED, the Depression-era true-crime novel that the London Sunday Times called a “taut and intriguing thriller,” and that the L.A. Times called “a gritty, gripping read, and one that begs to be put on film.”  Which explains why I spent most of yesterday doing radio interviews, first with Utah Public Radio host Tom Williams, then with Authors on the Air host Stephen Campbell, and I hope you’ll take a moment and check them out.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m off to Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, NM for a 6:00 p.m. event with author David Edgerly Gates, whose work appears in the newly-released BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF 2013.  I’ll be signing HARD TWISTED, and David will be signing BAMS 2013, and if you’re in the neighborhood, we hope you’ll stop by and say hello.  Also, for those in the southwestern Colorado area, I’ll be interviewed by host Tom Yoder on NPR affilliate KSJD-FM on Friday, November 1 at 8:30 a.m.  Hope you’ll listen in!

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