Private Investigator in Training

ONE MAN’S SHORT, SKETCHY CAREER AS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR IN TRAINING by Tom Turner

I thought Contop Investigations was kind of an odd name for a private investigation firm when I went there for an interview thirty years ago. Turned out the head of the West Palm Beach P.I. firm had a romanticized idea of what he did for a living. What he did– Contop’s bread and butter, that is– was cheating spouse investigations. That entailed putting a GPS device on a suspect’s car and following him/ her– usually him– to a No-tell Motel, then getting out his hire-powered Nikon and snapping off a few rolls of incriminating photos. (To his credit, he never actually went so far as to shoot a couple in compromising positions.) How do I know? Because I worked there for four months. When you’re twenty-five and broke, well, your standards maybe aren’t as lofty as they might be.

Anyway, so back to the name. The head of Contop– let’s call him Art– was a prodigious reader, particularly of detective novels, and confided in me once, after about nineteen Budweiser’s, that he named his company after the Continental Operative, Dashiell Hammett’s cunning master of deceit. He told me it was between Contop or Black Dahlia Investigations, which he’d lifted from a James Elroy noir novel. My tenure at Contop was mercifully short because Art had an explosive temper and a seriously sleazy side. The latter became readily apparent in a phone call I overheard  between Art and a prospective client: “Yeah,” Art said, “it’s just me and my wingman, Tom, here at Contop. He’s specializes in background checks and technical surveillance and put in sixteen years with the FBI.” Oh, really? So that meant I was nine when I joined up and…. “technical surveillance?” What’s that all about?  But the actual reason I quit was when he told me to “put a tail” on a cheating spouse– who turned out to be the father of a girl I had, coincidentally, dated the year before. I mustered up all my courage and told Art I wasn’t going to do it. He stormed around and told me I wasn’t cut out for PI work. He was right… thank God.

Palm Beach Nasty

PalmBeachNasty

New York homicide cop, Charlie Crawford, burns out, goes south and ends up in glitzy, glamorous Palm Beach. Problem is no one ever gets killed there…until one day Crawford is first on scene and finds a young guy swinging from a stately banyan tree. With that gruesome discovery, Palm Beach Nasty is off and running, with crisscrossing plots involving a billionaire with a thing for young girls, a far-reaching art scam with Crawford’s ex-girlfriend playing a starring role, and a ruthless hustler passing himself off as the long lost son of one of the richest men in town. Add to the mix a sultry real estate broker who knows where all the bodies are buried, a gorgeous forensic cop who’s got her eye on Charlie, a Mutt n’ Jeff combo of stone cold killers and you’ve got Palm Beach Nasty. Fast-paced, funny and a ton of fun… plus everything you ever wanted to know about the most scandalous town in America.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

TomTurner

A native New Englander, Tom Turner ran a bar in Vermont after college, then moved to New York and spent time as an award-winning copywriter at several Manhattan advertising agencies. A few years later he made a radical change and ended up in Palm Beach, buying, renovating and selling houses. On the side, he wrote Palm Beach Nasty, its sequel, Palm Beach Poison, and a screenplay, Underwater, now in development with a Hollywood production company. While at a wedding, he fell for the charm of Charleston, South Carolina, and moved there. He recently completed his third novel, Killing it in Charleston.

Website: http://tomturnerwrites.com/
Blog: http://tomturnerwrites.com/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tomturner.author?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomTurner1221
Buy the Book: http://amzn.com/1579623840

Author Branding

As authors, we’re advised to promote our brand to readers. What does this mean? Think about your favorite writers. You know what kind of story you’re going to get when you pick up one of their books. It could be heartwarming characters, small town settings, or fast-paced thrills and chills. Or maybe it’s a recurring theme that strikes a chord within you. But if we’re the writer, how do we define our own brand?

Sometimes we have to wait until we’ve written a few books to see what reviewers say. We can glean an idea of how our stories affect readers by their responses. Or we might recognize the core story in each of our books, those defining elements that call to us. Or we can ask other people what they see in our work.

You’ll want to showcase your brand in several places:

Signature Line

This would be a tagline that goes under your name every time you send out an email or make a post on a listserve.

Website

You’ll want to deploy metatags that mention your branding elements. So tag yourself in the header and in perhaps a sub-header as well, and then in the body of your text.

Logo

Here’s an opportunity for a pictorial representation of what you write. You can even put your logo, along with your website URL, on T-shirts and such as contest prizes for your fans.

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In my opinion, deciding on a tagline—like a blurb for a book—is harder than writing the story. It’s especially difficult when you write in more than one genre.

So here we come to the point of this post. I need your help.

I’m having an identity crisis. When I post to a romance loop, my signature line says Warrior Prince: A Drift Lords Novel. When I post to a mystery loop, I say Shear Murder: A Bad Hair Day Mystery. But I need something that encompasses both the genres I write. For example, my website says Author of Mystery and Romance. (Should I have a sub-header? And if so, what should it say?)

In other words, I need a new tagline.

Here’s my current signature, when I’m not using an actual book title:

Nancy J. Cohen
Romance and Mystery
Where passion & danger collide

I could change it to:

Author of Paranormal Romance and Humorous Mysteries
This one is good, but what if I write a new mystery that isn’t funny? My agent cautioned me against being too specific. Too narrow of a brand can box you in.

Here are some other suggestions. Quotes come from reviews. Please let me know which ones you like the best!!! I need a zippy tagline that reflects both the genres I write. Or make up your own combination and let’s hear it!

Sassy Sleuths, Sizzling Passion, and Suspense
Tales of Mystery, Romance, & Otherworldly Adventure
Tales of Murder, Love, & Laughter
Fun, fast-paced Florida mysteries and paranormal romance
Fast-paced humorous mysteries and paranormal romance
Hot heroes and sassy heroines mixed with intrigue and murder
Author of Paranormal Romance and Fun, Fast-Paced Mysteries
“Murder, Mayhem, Humor and Romance”
“Humor, Romance and Mystery”
“Humor, Action and Passion”
“Fun, entertaining, out of this world reads”
“Amazing heroines, sexy heroes, lovable sub-characters”
“Great characters, strong storylines…”
“Strong, sexy heroes, ….”
SciFi/Fantasy Romance and Fabulous Florida Mysteries

As for a logo, do you have any suggestions for an image that would combine the types of books I write? Murder mysteries and sci-fi/fantasy romance with paranormal elements (note that my new series takes place on Earth).

What would catch your attention? And feel free to share your tagline here.

Job Skills

A recent news article said that more than one million people in Florida need a job, but many positions are not being filled because applicants don’t have the proper skills. Employers want enthusiastic people who have a broad knowledge base along with cutting edge skills. Technology keeps changing. Applicants need to keep up with the times to be competitive.

How does this apply to the writer? Most communications today take place via email between editors, agents, and authors. We’re expected to format our manuscripts according to publisher guidelines and know how to follow track changes in Microsoft Word. We’re asked by publishers if we have a webpage, blog, Facebook fan page, and Twitter. It’s great that we can save money by not having to copy and mail manuscripts anymore, but do we save time? Not when we have to keep up with the rapidly changing technology.

A writer can’t get by without these skills nowadays. Never mind that all an author wants to do is write the next book. Too much involvement in these business activities can lead to burnout. One doesn’t get tired of writing the story. One gets tired of the racing train that keeps going in circles, round and round the promotional track. The pressure to stay on top can build to a momentum that forces our creativity to derail. This wasn’t the train we wanted when we got on board, but we’re stuck with it now.

I’m about to get my first eReader device. After much consideration, I’ve decided to get a Kindle. Now I read that the next generation may have E-Ink Color, as opposed to LCD color. As for touch screens, there’s two different types and one is supposed to be better than the other. Dedicated eReader, Tablet, or Smart Phone? Eventually all of these devices may be rolled into one of ideal size and technology to perform multiple functions with clarity and readability under all lighting conditions. But until then, we have to choose which device will serve the purposes we need. We have too many choices, when we should be focusing on word choice instead.

This blog appeared originally at the Kill Zone.

The Great Void

I finished the second book in my paranormal trilogy at 444 pages. This comes as a great relief but with one downside. It leaves me mentally floating in a void. I want to take a break and catch up on all the household chores left by the wayside the last few months, but my mind needs an anchor. That’s usually a WIP. It’s what I wake up eager to work on every day, a purpose, a calling if you will. But before I begin writing again, I need to develop the characters and the plot for the next story. Sometimes, this takes a while, because the characters have to brew in my head and the plot needs time to gel. I can tackle these stacks of papers in my office in the meantime, free of a daily writing schedule.

With vacant time, I can also turn to my final backlist book that needs conversion to digital format. It needs quite a bit of revision, not only sentence tightening, but adding a glossary and fixing paragraphs where I jump POVs. This task is likely to take me several months. Keeper of the Rings is 521 pages, a long book. But those characters are haunting me. A new generation of readers are waiting to discover Leena and Taurin’s story. And I’d like to bring it to them. So I am working on this revision, while also spending time cleaning the office. It’s a good time for a break with the holidays approaching, vacations coming, and relatives soon to visit.

Or I may zero in on a target book depending on my agent’s advice. Part of me wants to lounge around for a few months and part of me doesn’t. Can a writer ever be happy? We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. We can’t wait to finish a book and have time to relax but then our mind stretches for a new challenge.

Digital Rights

DIGITAL RIGHTS

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.                                                   

lunch2

Lunch Break

Panelists

Lucienne Diver, Literary Agent

Angela James, Executive Editor, Carina Press

Brian O’Leary, Magellan Media Partners

Sue Lange, Book View Café

Barbar Keiler, Author

Chris Kenneally, Copyright Clearance Center

Lou Aronica, Publisher, The Story Plant

J.A. Konrath, Author & Blogger

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Lucienne:  Unless you have an audience or a platform, you need a publisher.  And to reach the broadest possible audience, you need a publisher to put your book into the different formats.

Chris:  Digital publishing offers you a chance to experiment with a novella or a short story. 

Google editions may discourage piracy because people won’t share their Google accounts.

Lou doesn’t advice just putting your book up on Amazon.  They don’t put effort into marketing individual books.  Plus with so many formats, going with a publisher is better.

Joe Konrath believes consumers feel less toward digital copies than toward works in print. 

Agency Model: Publisher gets 70%, Amazon gets 30%, publisher sets price.  Out of the publisher’s share, the author may get 25%  and their agent gets 15% of that money.

Barbara:  How will mobile phones affect the art of writing?  Will readers have patience for paragraphs longer than 3 lines?  Will description be tolerated or will it be replaced by a video clip?  Will the Twitter novel become popular?  How about turning off your cell phones on airplanes? Does this mean you can’t read during takeoffs and landings?  People with shorter attention spans will want shorter books.

Brian:  Re contract clauses and reversion of rights and subrights, try for a shorter term, like 3 to 5 years, after which these items are negotiable. 

Publishers have to agree on terms of sale with eReader device providers in order to offer their stock in that format.

“Windowing” is when a hardcover comes out then the eBook comes out xx weeks later.  You have to market the book twice when this happens so it causes the author more work.  This also may happen with books that release in the U.S. market and later in the foreign markets.  You lose sales momentum.

Final Advice:                                                           

Nancy and Denise

Nancy Cohen and Five Star Editor Denise Dietz

Write more good books and write quickly.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the marketing aspects.

Spend time selling your book.  Work it into your calendar.

You don’t need an entire social media strategy.  Start with just one thing.

You can reinvent yourself.  Don’t be frightened by the prospect; be excited by it.

Be transparent for your readers; let them see who you are.

You can find a smaller, devoted audience without a blockbuster mentality.  This can be artistically liberating for writers.

Follow you own path while keeping in mind all your options.

Lunch

Enjoying Lunch

Coming Next: Writing for Worldwide Distribution

STORY PROCESS

STORY PROCESS

Writers who are plotters know what is supposed to happen going into a scene. At least, we know what we want to happen to our characters when they move from Point A to Point B. How they traverse that distance often comes as a Bookssurprise and may require a leap of faith.

For example, in my latest paranormal WIP, I entered a scene knowing what information my characters had to obtain. It seemed too easy. Were they just going to stroll into the lion’s den, get their scoop, and leave without opposition? Something bad had to happen. Haven’t we been taught to toss our characters into situations that test their mettle? So what could happen to them to throw them offguard?

Jennifer and Paz split up inside a fictional theme park in Hong Kong. Theme Parks are a key element in my paranormal series. What could be creepier than a happy place where everyone seems to be having a good time but something evil ferments below the surface? Both Paz and Jen each have an objective to accomplish. Starting with the heroine, she obtains the information she needs with relative ease. But just as she figures she’s got the goods and can leave, a ride attendant stops her. What ensues developed from the plot and my notes, but I hadn’t seen it coming. It introduces information important to the next books in the series and adds a new layer to the story. This twist was in my head all along. I just needed faith that the scene would carry forth the logic I’d built until now.

Ditto for the hero, who risks going deeper into bad guy territory to get what he needs. As I entered his viewpoint, I wondered how to complicate matters for him. Was Paz just going to jump in, collect his data, and leave so readily? Of course not! Yet I had not foreseen what would happen to him either. Just as it does with Jen, this twist ties in with later events.

I’ve blogged on Story Magic before, but these are perfect examples of how the blank page gets filled in via unexpected ways. It’s the writer’s subconscious at work, mulling over plot details, and these new twists pop up when we’re least expecting them. I thought of the heroine’s situation while driving in the car with my husband at the wheel (See Blog below about The Writer’s Mind). This is the glorious creative time when the story almost writes itself. Compare the plot outline or story synopsis to a skeleton. The creative process fills in the flesh on the bones.

Now if only I can figure out how Paz and Jen will free the dragon trapped in a cave.

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THE WRITER’S MIND

I’m sitting in the car at a traffic light, and my mind wanders. My hero accesses the villain’s fortress to determine how they are keeping open a dimensional rift. He’s been there before but missed some important data. What is different this time? He has gone shopping in the interval. Did I have him buy electronics so he could use his spacefaring skills to assemble a sensor device? Oops, better add that into the story.  What data would he collect this time that he wasn’t able to acquire before? He has to determine the rifts are being kept open by a particle generator. So it makes sense that he detects the particles. A ideaconstant bombardment of these particles from the other side could be what the evil Trolleks are using to force open the rifts. The pressure would have to be tremendous. I’ve already mentioned neutrinos in the story, but they pass through matter. What about anti-neutrinos? Or better still, something with mass. More research required! Or, I could just make up my own quantum particles.

The light changes to green. My mind shifts into reality. I’ll have to wait until I get home to follow this train of thought. As my foot presses on the accelerator, I’m also thinking that I need to look up Manga along with Islands of Adventure at Universal. My characters are entering a fictional theme park called Manga World. For a map and a model of the types of rides, I’ll use the Orlando site. I’ll just swap them with imaginary Manga heroes. Oh, have I arrived at the post office? File that thought until later!          idea

No wonder my husband says he talks to me in the car and I don’t respond. That’s the hazard of being married to a writer. Our mind is always lost in another world.

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RESEARCH: ON-SITE LOCALES

When you research an area in person for your story, observe your surroundings with the Writer’s Eye. What does this mean? Use the five senses in recording your observations. Back up your notes with photos and recordings if you wish. But later, when you have plenty of reference materials, you might forget just how hot it was outside or what sounds    you heard unless you’ve jotted it down. So what are you looking for in your on-site research?                                      

SIGHT means more than just seeing with your eyes. It means looking at things with a critical view. Examine the buildings along your route. What color are they? Is the paint fresh or peeling? What are the construction materials? How well is the roof maintained? What do the windows remind you of? Think in terms of analogies. Are they yawning windows like open mouths? Or blank like vacant eyes?

How does this object make you feel? Layering your observations with attitude or emotion contributes to the experience. Describe the front door. Is there a doorbell or knocker, and how does it characterize the occupant if it’s a house? Examine the lawn. Does the grass need a trim? Are weeds taking over? Note elements like overhead electric wires, stray cats, tilted street signs, cracked sidewalks. These details make the setting come alive in your mind after you go home.

Be observant of nature: plants, animals, weather.  Inside a place, note the furniture, art work, knickknacks, room layout, decorating accessories. Look for new ways to describe things, such as objects possessing reflective nature like water, glistening like a cobweb in sunlight, moist with dew, glossy like a polished piano, and so on. You’re not only writing down what you see, but also its characteristics.

What SMELLS do you notice: Stale cigarette smoke? Floral perfume? Barrel-aged Cabernet? Beer and pretzels? Pine wood smoke? Vanilla and nutmeg? Heated asphalt, or rain-tinged ozone? Newly cut grass, or fresh paint? Tar or diesel fumes? What emotional reaction do these scents evoke in you? You can use these smells to convey mood in a story. A honeyed scent will make the reader feel differently than the odor of burnt toast.

SOUNDS:  Close your eyes and listen to what you hear. Birds singing (melodious, raucous, or warbling?), ducks quacking, pounding construction, car engines, airplanes zooming overhead, trickling water, rustling branches, droning air-conditioners, loud grass blowers. See how many different sounds you can distinguish. Are these pleasant or unpleasant to you?

While your eyes are closed, consider your sense of TOUCH.  How does the air contact your skin? Is it warm or cool? Does a breeze lift the hairs on your arm? Ruffle your skirt against your legs? Does the sun beat upon your back and raise perspiration on your brow? Do you feel an insect crawling over your ankle? When you are walking, do you feel the uneven pavement underfoot? Do you trip over an unseen rock? Or is the ground wet sand with a spongy surface? Now consider objects that you encounter. Are they rough or smooth? Silken or thorny? Describe the texture along with the temperature, and if the sensation is welcome or not.

TASTE  is often related to your nose. If you smell sea air, you may taste salt on your tongue. If you smell ripe grapes, you may taste wine. We’re not talking about describing only what you eat. That’s too easy, although you can note the temperature and texture in that regard. This is where you try to detect a taste where there may be none obvious. It’s just another way bringing the scene alive for you when you’re back home.

When you meet people along the way, note their physical appearance, mode of dress, dialect, gestures, gait, and accessories. Take photos so you can remember details later. Ditto for street scenes. A picture can be worth a thousand words as long as you record the sensory details.                                               

Collect useful resources as you go, such as maps, tourist brochures, history books, guides to the flora and fauna, menus, and postcards.

Virtual tours online can get anywhere these days, but they will not convey the five senses that you need to bring your scene alive. Steep yourself in the sensory details, and readers will exclaim how real the place feels when they read your story.

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