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Parker Francis Revealed

I’ve made no secret of the fact that Parker Francis is a pen name for a much more boring writer named Vic DiGenti. From time to time I’m asked why I chose to write under a pseudonym and respond by telling people I’m in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Not. The real reason, of course, is because my first series of novels, the Windrusher trilogy, has a much younger audience of readers. When I began writing the Quint Mitchell Mysteries, aimed at an adult audience, I didn’t want to shock my young readers who might think this was another fantasy about a heroic cat. I could see the outrage on mom’s face when 12-year-old Emily shows her mom the scene in Matanzas Bay where Quint and Sabrina are getting it on.

And so Parker Francis was born.  pen-name-tag

I sometimes have to be reminded that most people aren’t aware of this fact, and assume the name on the cover is my real name. This was brought home when I was recently interviewed for a “Get to Know” feature in one of our community newspapers, and I explained the pen name game to the reporter. Like most writers, I’ve been interviewed from time to time, and some of the stories read like a work of fiction, leaving me wondering where I was when the interview took place. But Angela Higginbotham did a fine job, and I thought the finished article was worth sharing with those of you who are looking for an inside peek at my life story.

Click here to read the interview.

Bouchercon World Mystery Convention

I recently returned from the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in New Orleans, everyone’s favorite party city. I’ve heard my fellow authors rave about Bouchercon for years, but had never attended one. I was on a panel at last year’s Killer Nashville Conference, and my fellow panelists were excited about the fact the 2016 Bouchercon would be in New Orleans. The excitement was contagious, and I immediately registered. Now I know why so many mystery and crime writers have raved about it.
There were well over 1,000 people in attendance—one person said it was closer to 2,000—and it attracts both readers and writers. Obviously the location had a lot to do with the huge turnout, but I was impressed by the big name authors in attendance, and the many excellent panel discussions. Among the hundreds of authors in attendance were Harlan Coben, C. J. Box, R.L. Stine, Meg Gardiner, Michael Connelly, Heather Graham, Lawrence Block, lee-davidand Lee Child. 
We had the opportunity to march in a second-line parade from the host hotel to the Orpheum Theater where Lee Child interviewed David Morrell, and the Anthony Awards were presented. Here they are on stage.
 
Bouchercon moves from city to city each year. Next year’s will be in Toronto, and the 2018 is set for St. Petersburg, FL, followed by Dallas and Sacramento. I’m planning a return visit in 2018.

New horror anthology

When my friend and award-winning author Ken Pelham, told me he wanted to assemble a collection of short stories for a modern horror anthology, I told him to count me in. Of course, I don’t regularly write horror stories (and don’t let me hear any cracks about my “horrible” stories), but I had written a few unsettling ones that I thought might work. After Ken said he’d accept previously published stories, I submitted Texting April, a tale of technology pushed past the limits of natural law into the supernatural world when young Nick receives a text message from someone who is no longer among the living. Texting April went on to win a Royal Palm Literary Award and was later published in my short story collection, Ghostly Whispers, Secret Voices.

My story was accepted and Texting April is now one of twelve outstanding stories by thirteen writers: Elle Andrews Patt, Daco Auffenorde & Robert In Shadows Written CoverRotstein (writing as coauthors), Bria Burton, MJ Carlson, Charles A Cornell, John Hope, Jade Kerrion, William Burton McCormick, Ken Pelham, Michael Sears, and Melanie Terry Griffey.

The anthology is titled In Shadows Written: An Anthology of Modern Horror. In his introduction to the book, Ken talks about our prehistoric ancestors sitting around campfires telling stories of the scary, dangerous world they lived in; a world filled with real monsters and unexplained mysteries. These were the first horror stories. You’ll find both monsters and mysteries In Shadows Written, as well as a fresh take on the monsters in our heads. So, as Ken says, before you sit down to read this collection of unnerving stories, make sure your light bill has been paid and all  the doors and windows are locked.

Why Attend Writers’ Conferences

There are many excellent reasons to attend a writers’ conference, including the possibility of meeting famous people and big name writers. Some conferences bill these bestselling authors as Guest of Honor, as Harlan Coben is for next year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans. ThrillerFest identifies their special honoree as Thriller Master, and have given that honorific to Nelson DeMille this year and Heather Graham next year. And the Florida Writers Association Conference has a Person of Renown, with Marie Bostwick filling that role this year and John Gilstrap in 2016.

While every conference is a bit different, most include craft workshops, panel discussions, opportunities to pitch agents and publishers, and, of importance to all published authors, book sales through the conference bookstore and book signings.

I attended two writers’ conferences in October, and came away feeling both were money well spent. What? You thought these things were free? All conferences have registration fees, but on top of that you have to figure the cost of travel and accommodations. It can be pricey depending on how far you’re traveling, but it’s all part of the cost of doing business as a writer.

As I said, there are a lot of good reasons to attend a conference, but making a lot of money selling your books isn’t one of them. Book sales are usually fairly meager, unless you’re one of those nationally-known authors. No, the most common reasons to attend include improving your craft, networking with other writers, getting energized and inspired, and the possibility of making a vital connection with an agent or publisher.

RPLA Signing w AwardI’ve attended the Florida Writers Association’s annual conference for years, and this year as a fulltime volunteer on the registration desk. Since I was a finalist for a Royal Palm Literary Award, I wanted to be there to (hopefully) pick up the award in person. The good news is that my short story submission, “The Strange Case of Lord Byron’s Lover,” took 1st Place honors in its category. I later learned it had also garnered the second highest number of points from the judges of any submission in the competition. Way cool! Here I am at a signing with my award front and center.

Another reason to attend was to participate in a signing of The Prometheus Saga anthology with the other authors in attendance. The collection, which included my short story, had recently been published, and we wanted to promote it to as many people as possible. It worked, as we later learned our anthology was the second highest selling fiction title in the FWA bookstore. Not too meager after all, particularly for an anthology.

My next conference was Killer Nashville, an excellent conference for mystery and crime writers. The conference is held at the Omni Nashville Hotel, adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame and only blocks from Broadway Avenue, where dozens of honky-tonk bars line each side of the street, rocking with music night and day. And on Halloween, which was the weekend we were there, nearly every other person was in costume. My dear wife accompanied me as she’s quite supportive, but mostly because she has family in the Nashville area and we make a point to visit with them each of the three years we’ve attended.

One of the highlights of the conference was participating in a panel discussion on “Show Don’t Tell.” What made it special were my fellow panelists, all KN Panel Dinnerterrific writers. We gathered at The Southern Restaurant the night before our panel to get to know each other a little better. We didn’t talk much about the next day’s panel, but here we all are sitting around after dinner. From left to right are Allen Eskens and his wife, Joely, Kay Kendall, Charles Salzberg, Linda Sasscer Hill, my wife, Evanne, and yours truly.

The panel went swimmingly, with lots of good questions from the audience. We celebrated later that day by visiting a few of the music establishments on Broadway Avenue. And you’ll never guess who we met there. Which proves my point that one of the reasons to attend is meeting famous people. Elvis-KN

 

 

Seen any good books lately?

Every writer dreams of having their book picked up by a Hollywood studio and eventually seeing their baby come to life on the big screen—or as we’re seeing more and more these days, appearing on the wide screens in our living rooms. James Patterson’s Zoo will soon join another newcomer, Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy. Of course, the odds of that happening for most writers are about the same as winning the Powerball lottery. But many bestsellers find their way to screens large and small each year with results ranging from awesome to head-scratching confusion.

I started thinking about this when CBS blasted us with a battery of promos for season 3 of Under the Dome. As a Stephen King fan I anxiously awaited the premiere of the first season and became hooked by the strange story of Chester’s Mill’s internal struggles to survive the turbulence caused by the mysterious dome, which turned the town into an artificial pressure cooker.Under the Dome

Not having read the book, I enjoyed the various plot twists propelling the story through season one, leaving viewers hanging and wondering if the residents of Chester’s Mill would ever get out from under the dome. I guess we’re still wondering about that.

Midway through season two, however, I feared the series had jumped the shark, moving the story from the mysterious to the ridiculous. That’s when I decided to read King’s original story. After only three or four chapters I saw significant differences between the literary version and the television series. That’s not at all unusual since books seldom make the transition to film or television intact, and when a single storyline is expanded to fill more than one season, then the original story can scarcely be seen, diminishing episode by episode like a distant figure in a rearview mirror.

I certainly knew the difference between books and movies going in, but when I read Under the Dome and learned one of the main characters in the TV series is killed off in the first few chapters of the book, and another stumbles around with a growing brain tumor for much of the book before being killed, I just couldn’t keep watching the show and set my DVR free to record other programs of interest.

Some of you will disagree with me, but I’m sure you’ve had your own disappointments because Hollywood has a way of dumbing down complex stories and characters to make them more accessible to mass audience tastes. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some The Godfatheroutstanding successes. A few of the movies have even turned out better than the author’s original work. One that comes to mind is The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola transformed Mario Puzo’s mafia potboiler into a classic tale that grabs me every time I see it.

Another film that improved upon the original is The Shawshank Redemption, based on Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. While King’s story was well crafted and intriguing, it was pretty much a straightforward tale of banker Andy Dufresne’s imprisonment for a double murder he didn’t commit, and how prison changed him and Shawshankhe in turn changed the other prisoners. Of course, there was the escape from Shawshank prison using his little rock hammer.

Writer/director Frank Darabont (who also did a masterful job adapting The Green Mile, another King prison story) added his own twists to Shawshank, and made it one of the most frequently televised movies on cable year after year, and another film I never tire of watching.

A few other good film adaptions come to mind, including The Fight Club and No Country for Old Men. On the negative side I’d point to the newest version of The Great Gatsby and The DaVinci Code as stinkers.

Television has had some recent successes adapting books. Several I particularly like include Dexter, Game of Thrones, Justified, and Sherlock.

I can think of a few more books that would make great movies, including a thriller set in the little town of Cedar Key. I think it was called Hurricane Island. Hmm, do you know any Hollywood producers?

Anyway, you’ve read my list of hits and misses, what are some of yours?

Hurricane Island Still Roaring

Cover of "Hurricane Island," a Quint Mitchell Mystery by Parker FrancisHurricane Island has been on the market for about three months now, and it’s still drawing interest from reviewers and readers. The Florida Times Union is the latest newspaper to review my new thriller, and reviewer Tim O’Connell gave it a very good review indeed. Read the review here.

Hurricane Island is my most fast-paced story yet, with all of the major action taking place in 24 hours. With interest growing, I’ve had several successful signings and talks, including at the Barnes & Noble at St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville, and most recently at The BookMark in Neptune Beach where a nice crowd heard me talk about the book, my wBookMark Talkriting process and answer questions. Here’s a photo from that talk. Check the Appearances page for my upcoming appearances.

I am available to speak to book clubs, libraries or other organizations needing a speaker, so please feel free to contact me at authorparkerfrancis@gmail,com.

Swimming in Cedar Key Factoids

I like to believe readers of mysteries are intelligent people with a thirst for knowledge. They expect more from their mystery novels than crime and punishment. That’s why I try to sneak in bits and pieces of the history of the area where my books are set. In Matanzas Bay readers learned about the settlement of the nation’s oldest city, and the fact that Matanzas is Spanish for “place of slaughter.”

Quint certainly had his troubles in that first book, but he managed to outlast his antagonist and lived to fight another day when I sent him to Allendale, SC to track down the “Heartthrob Bandit” in Bring Down the Furies. This book embroiled Quint (pun intended) in a town targeted by a serial arsonist, as well as a cultural war between an archaeologist and an ultra-conservative minister. Along the way, readers learned about the area’s history and how Sherman’s troops burned the original town as it stormed toward the state capitol.

Cover of "Hurricane Island," a Quint Mitchell Mystery by Parker FrancisMy research always turns up a wealth of fascinating background material, much more than I can use if I don’t want the book to read like a history text. For instance, in Hurricane Island, which is set in Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I learned that the Cedar Keys were used by the Seminole Indians, also by the Spanish as a watering stop for ships returning to Spain from Mexico. And pirates like Jean Lafitte and Captain Kidd dropped by from time to time to count their stolen loot.

The US Army established a permanent base on Depot Key, later known as Atsena Otie Key, during the Second Seminole War around 1839. Led by General Zachary Taylor (history buffs will recall him as the 12th President of the United State), this became the headquarters of the Army of the South. The base, known as Cantonment Morgan, was used as a troop deployment and detention center for Seminole Indians captured during the war. It all came to an abrupt end on October 4, 1842 when a hurricane with a 27-foot storm surge crushed the Cedar Keys and wiped out Cantonment Morgan.

According to the website HurricaneCity.com, Cedar Key has been hit by 36 tropical storms and 15 hurricanes since 1870. Winds have ranged from 46 mph in a slow moving 1896 storm that killed 100 people, to a 1950 hurricane with winds of 120 mph that destroyed two-thirds of the homes on the island.

Perhaps now you can see why I titled this book Hurricane Island. You can read the first few chapters by going “inside the book” on the Amazon product page. Enjoy!

Alvarium Co-Creator Tells All

Ken_Pelham picFrom time to time I’ve turned this blog over to a guest in order to introduce you to some of my favorite writers. Today’s guest post is an interview with Ken Pelham, one of the award-winning authors you’ll find in “The Prometheus Saga,” an anthology of short stories examining a single premise from many different angles. Ken is not only one of the authors, but the co-creator of The Alvarium Experiment, our consortium of writers, and recruited me into the hive.

Ken is the author of the thriller Place of Fear and Brigands Key. During the interview, Ken explains how The Alvarium Experiment got started, and where it’s going. Please welcome Ken Pelham.

1. What inspired you to launch/join the Alvarium Experiment?

For years, writers have been hearing, “Avoid the short story! There’s no money and no future in it! Write only novels, dammit!” But there’s been a sea change, caused by online publishing. Short is GOOD again. I’ve always loved short stories and have always wanted to be included in an anthology, so over the last year or two I’d been thinking about submitting work to an anthology somewhere.

I’d been following some of the cool things authors like Hugh Howey were espousing, taking advantage of the amazing flexibility of the Internet as a publishing platform, and it occurred to me that, heck, I didn’t need to search out a multi-author anthology, I could build my own!

I started scratching out some ideas about how it would work. I didn’t want to be “The Publisher,” responsible for everything and seeing that everyone gets paid. So I thought each author should self-publish, simultaneously, with a common premise and common brand. All for one and one for all.

I’d met Charles A. Cornell a few years ago, and had recently read his dieselpunk war novel, Dragonfly, and the related horror short story, “Die Fabrik.” From the lengths he’d gone to build a fully-illustrated universe, even inventing entirely new retro aircraft and war machines, I knew he was a guy that thinks outside the box. Way outside the box. In fact, he’s quite mad. I pitched the idea to Charles and he pounced, and over the course of a couple of weeks, we’d laid the groundwork for both The Alvarium Experiment (the writers’ consortium) and The Prometheus Saga. The next task was to trick other writers into joining.

2. What are some of the benefits and challenges of writing “into” an existing framework for Prometheus as a character? How did that shape your creative process for your story? Is it different from your usual writing process?

We wanted the Saga to be wide open, story-wise. So the challenge for Charles and I was to create a theme and character that essentially had no bounds, but made some sort of logical sense. The character has some limitations, of course. Superheroes are stupid and boring.

I think, for many authors, we already work within existing frameworks we’ve built. Doyle, for the obvious example, built his world for and around Sherlock Holmes, and played by Holmesian rules. We encouraged the Alvarium authors to incorporate their own outside projects and characters into this.

3. Tell me more about your other work(s).

I’ve built my own little universe of characters to populate my suspense fiction. They’ll continue to interact and piss each other off. Brigands Key, my first novel, zeroes in on the fictional Florida island of the same name, and the horrific events that come raining down on it. The prequel, Place of Fear, takes my BK protagonist, Dr. Carson Grant, and plunks him down in the middle of the Guatemalan rainforest. You can see why he’s developed a reputation for surliness. Both of these novels won first-place in the Royal Palm Literary Awards, I’m happy to say.

Brigands Key, the island, kind of got under my skin. So after finishing the novel, I wrote three short stories, “Tales of Old Brigands Key,” set in the past. I have no doubt I’ll write about that island’s dubious and unsavory past again. I released a pair of short writers’ guidebooks in 2014, one on viewpoint and the other on building suspense.

4. Tell me more about your short story in The Prometheus Saga. Why did you pick that episode in history?

Long answer: “First World War” involves our Prometheus very early in life, 40,000 years ago, give or take aPrometheus_First-World-War few days. This gave me a chance to write about the human condition of today through the lens of our Ice Age ancestors. Human evolution is a complex story, and people today seemed surprised to learn that multiple species of hominids existed simultaneously on Earth at that time. I’m not talking about different races; I’m talking actual different species. And yet only one survives. I doubt that the ones that disappeared did so willingly.

Short answer: I like prehistoric stuff, what with the cavemen and all.

5. What are your writing plans for 2015? What does the new year hold in store for you?

Prometheus, obviously. Beyond that, I’ll continue work on my third novel (another Carson Grant thriller), and possibly release a nonfiction book about suspense fiction. The audiobook edition of Brigands Key will be out early in 2015, so I’m quite excited by that.

Following Ken and Charles’ lead, 10 other authors have rallied around “The Prometheus Saga,” and all stories go on sale tomorrow, Monday, January 26 at Amazon.com. To learn more about the authors and their stories, visit the website. And be sure to drop by for the launch party starting at noon tomorrow and chat with the authors. You’ll find the party here. And if you’re so inclined, you can find “The Strange Case of Lord Byron’s Lover” right here.

Many thanks to Ken Pelham. I hope you’ll drop by the launch party for a chat. I’ll give away a free download of my Matanzas Bay audiobook, so come on down.