7.15.2012

Amazing review of FIRE SEASON popped up on Google alerts today (yes, I've Google alerted myself).  It's by the extremely intelligent and articulate Doreen Sheridan at criminalelement.com, with whom I may be a little bit in love.  I'll do a fair use quote of four paragraphs, but the whole thing's worth a read.  If you're me, anyway. 

It’s not often that you find a solid police procedural couched in dialog that makes you laugh out loud every few pages, but Fire Season by Jon Loomis is just that. Loomis leavens the criminal—and sometimes tragic—events he writes of with snappy patter and the occasional dose of absurdity.

A less accomplished writer might be seeming to undermine the seriousness of the subject at hand: rampant death and destruction are no laughing matter, after all. Loomis, however, juxtaposes the dramatic with the humorous in a way that serves to enhance each. His deliberate, and masterful, use of this technique is a neat reminder that even in the most dire of situations, a little humor can help anchor us in the long view. When used in a crime novel, it’s a nice nod to the fact that this technique is also a coping mechanism not unfamiliar to police officers and others in similarly stressful occupations.

And while the crimes—beginning with the grisly slaughter of seals in captivity, and escalating to multiple arsons, a murder, and international drug trafficking—are depicted with the gravity each deserves, the human relationships are usually laced with levity and warmth, such as between the protagonist, Acting Police Chief Frank Coffin, and his partner, Sergeant Lola Winters:
"Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Lola said, after they’d found five hollow ducks.
“I’m thinking I wish we had a drug dog,” Coffin said.
“So, smuggling?”
Coffin nodded. “Not a lot of volume, so something pricey—high quality heroin or coke, maybe.”
“Could be some other smuggling thing,” Lola said. “Diamonds. Krugerrands.”
“And any minute now Cary Grant could jump in through the window,” Coffin said.
Lola punched him in the shoulder.

There have been some other very nice pre-pub reviews, but it really doesn't get any better than this one.  Thank you, Ms. Sheridan.  

6.04.2012

Taking a class at Globe

So, because I'm a bit of a loon, I thought it might be interesting/instructive to try to take an online creative writing class at Globe University--our for-profit "competitor" school here in Eau Claire.  Who knows?  Maybe I'd get an essay out of it, or a novel chapter.  Turns out, a single, four-credit creative writing class costs $2000 (including about $160/worth of books, evidently).  That's, like, a new Stratocaster!  So, ain't gonna happen.  It might be fun, though, to go in and take the test to see if I can skip the prerequisite (I wonder how many people pass the test).  I asked if my prior professional writing experience counted, and they said no.

The funny part (okay, it's all funny) is that a 3-credit intro to creative writing course at UWEC would cost a little more than half that.  Taught by me!  Also, I looked up the guy that teaches their online CW classes.  I'm sure he's a great guy.  He's one of our alums!  From 2003!  He has a master's from UW-Madison in Linguistics, and hasn't actually published anything yet, as far as I can tell.  But his class costs $1000 more than mine!  And of course he gets paid a fraction of my salary, with no benefits.  I don't know that for a fact, but I assume he makes roughly what our adjuncts make.  And that, folks, is your for-profit higher education model at work.

Here's the dirty little secret about for-profit higher ed: without the federal student loan program, it wouldn't exist.  There's no business model without taxpayers ultimately being on the hook.  Can you say, "corporate welfare?"  Sure you can.     
Starred review from Booklist (subscription only, so no link):

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Issue: June 1, 2012
Fire Season.
Loomis, Jon (Author)

Jul 2012. 304 p. Minotaur, hardcover, $24.99. (9780312668136).
A virtual crime wave in Provincetown, Massachusetts, starts with the slaughter of the seals kept at a
seaside restaurant. Then arson-induced fires escalate in size, and authorities don’t know whether to look
for thrill-seeking teens or a business owner after insurance. When the disembodied head of the local
nursing-home director—who just told acting police chief Frank Coffin he was kicking out his dementia afflicted, troublemaking mother—is found in the lobster tank of another restaurant, it’s almost enough to
make Coffin start smoking again, except that he’s trying to get more healthy for the sake of his pregnant
girlfriend, Jamie, and their unborn daughter. Through sleep deprivation and stress, the intuitive Coffin and his sidekick, Sergeant Lola Winters, persevere, continuing their lighthearted yet caring bantering. In
Loomis’ P-town, cross-dressing male tourists are called Tall Ships (after the annual festival), and the noise of reconstruction of the aging town hall causes the female town manager to move a high-powered meeting to the ladies’ room. The third in this series is fulfilling the promise of the earlier books (High Season, 2007, and Mating Season, 2009), with its sharp dialogue, keen sense of place, and a protagonist who’s reminiscent of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser but more of an everyman. Great entertainment.
— Michele Leber

It's always nice when they compare you to somebody really famous.

5.16.2012

Nice review of FIRE SEASON from Publisher's Weekly:

Fire Season
An arsonist, a pregnant girlfriend, a troublesome mother with Alzheimer’s, and a cousin afraid of UFO aliens all plague acting police chief Frank Coffin in Loomis’s enjoyable third mystery featuring the Provincetown, Mass., cop (after 2009’s Mating Season). When a human head turns up in the lobster tank at the Fish Palace, and the arsonist graduates from dumpsters to larger targets, Frank’s problems really get serious. Goofy supporting characters and situations involve some of Provincetown’s many LBGT visitors, a parrot whose salty words cause a commotion at Billy’s bar, the new but balky equipment of the volunteer fire department, and Episcopal priest Father Brian’s personal struggles with God. Coffin handles everything with a weary patience and much ingenuity, assisted by Sgt. Lola Winters—and hindered by irrepressible Rodolfo Santos (aka Uncle Rudy). Those who like their murders served with a hearty helping of whimsy and humor will be rewarded.

Other Formats
Open Ebook - 978-1-250-01486-3

2.25.2012

These are pretty funny.

Not sure where these come from or why they were done, but for whatever reason "Deer Hit" has become a poem that a lot of high school teachers find "teachable" and "relevant." I thought both of these videos were pretty great/funny/inventive.

Eleven Things I Know About Fiction Writing


Eleven Things I Know About Fiction Writing

1.Just show up.  At least half the battle is getting your ass in the chair when you’d rather be hanging out with your kids or drinking or playing guitar, or when you’ve got stuff to do for work that’s really, really important.  Go into your room, shut the door, sit down.  Turn on the computer.  Write something.

2.When you have a good writing day, reward yourself.  Have a cocktail!  Smoke a cigar!  When you have a bad writing day, seek comfort.  Have a cocktail.  Smoke a cigar.  At least you tried, and there’s always tomorrow.  If you beat yourself up over the bad days, you’ll never finish anything.  Most writing days are bad, but you need them to get to the good days.

3.Forget writing what you know.  Most of us don’t know much of anything first-hand that isn’t boring.  We know working in a cubicle, we know walking the dog, we know going to the supermarket, we know sleeping and watching TV.  Instead, write what interests and entertains you.  If it doesn’t interest or entertain you, it’s going to bore the hell out of everyone else.  If it does interest you, there’s a chance it might interest other people, too.

4.Do a little research when you have to.  Google makes it incredibly easy to find out practically anything.  Also, travel!  Talk to people!  I’m lucky because I can get student researchers to work for me for free, but it’s really not that hard to do it on your own, and it can add a lot of texture to a book.

5.Don’t get too hung up on research.  You can always tell when a writer’s fallen in love with a piece of information they’ve discovered—they’ll describe how a gun works in minute and boring detail, or walk you through a complex legal or technical process they obviously find fascinating, but which interrupts the story and leaves the reader flipping pages, looking for the next bit of action or dialogue.  Use only those morsels of factual information that can make the story funnier or more interesting or more real, and that keep it moving forward.  Never stop the action to tell the reader an important fact.  Don’t let your characters talk like technical manuals unless they’re the kind of people that talk like technical manuals.  

6. If the weather plays a part in the story, or if your story’s set in a place that has interesting or atmospheric weather, go ahead and write about the weather.   If the story’s set in southern California where it’s always sunny and seventy-five degrees, only write about the weather if your main character yearns for snow.

7.If you’re good at description it’s fine to spend a bit of time on it.  Tuck it in where there are pauses in the dialogue.  Think cinematically—the long shot, the close-up, the panoramic view.  Keep it short, though—the reader’s waiting for the characters to say and do something interesting.

8.Don’t confuse plot with story.  Even though I write crime fiction, I don’t really care about plot: plot is just the calendar of events—what happens in what order.  Story is what the characters do—what they think about, what they say, what they eat, who they have sex with, who they fight with, whether they get what they want. 

9.Story is born from character and conflict.  Get the characters right, give them an interesting conflict, and story takes care of itself.  Sometimes you won’t really know who your characters are until you’re a hundred pages in—that’s fine.  That’s what first drafts are for.

10.Stories are made of scenes.  A good scene needs a monkey.  Which is to say, two characters talking while standing (or sitting) in a room, or walking down the beach, or riding in a car, aren’t usually enough to make an interesting scene.  No matter how funny or interesting or important the dialogue is, the scene will still be boring if that’s all that’s going on.  But if your characters are driving down the freeway and trying to talk about something important and there’s a monkey leaping around the car’s interior, flipping the headlights on and off, honking the horn and pooping in the ash-tray—then you’ve got a scene.  Of course, not every scene can have a literal monkey in it, so you have to find the particular “monkey” that’s right for your particular scene—something for your readers to look at while the characters talk. 

11. Great writers write great sentences.  If you can write a good sentence, you can write anything.  If you can’t write a good sentence, everything you write is going to suck on the most fundamental level, no matter how great your ideas are.  You can write bad sentences—and horrible, stilted dialogue—and still get rich as a writer (I won’t name names here, but you know who I’m talking about), but that will be your legacy.  You’ll be that guy who was essentially a hack but lucked into a formula that happened to sell at a given point in time.  Don’t be a hack.  Write good sentences.

11.27.2011

FIRE SEASON has a cover!


Draft cover for the new novel.  The best one so far, I think.  Glad they got the Pilgrim Monument in there, finally.

Loomis speaks.

Nice interview with my crimespace/facebook buddy B.R. Stateham.  For some reason Blogger won't let me post a reply, but my response to Austin's comment is that I have a great editor at SM/M who understands that I have a demanding, full-time teaching job and a young family, so a book every two or three years is about as fast as I can write them.  As long as they keep earning out, everybody's happy.  Ish.

8.29.2011

More actual reader comments

Mr. Loomis,
I just gobbled up a dish of pastische you call Mating Season. Tasted a bit like Hiaasen--yum.


I've been ripping Hiaasen off for almost ten years now.  It's about time someone noticed.

8.05.2011

Note to potential readers

I'm having way too much fun to ever write a conventional mystery/thriller/whatever--one that doesn't depart an inch from the predictable expectations of the genre.  Maybe I'd make some money if I played it straight (or kept a straight face), but I'd be bored out of my mind by the time I got thirty pages in.  Really, as I've said, I'm writing dark comedies that loosely fit within the mystery frame—and the more I can subvert the conventional tropes and structures the happier I am.  Most readers get the joke, but folks who insist on straight-up hard-boiled, or detailed procedurals, or sex/violence/profanity-free cozies probably won't like these novels.  Fine with me—the (remaining) bookstores are full of perfectly satisfying comfort food for those readers.

Not that the Coffin mysteries don't contain elements of all of those things—they do, but I've never been interested in staying true to the demands of any particular sub-genre; much too limiting.  If you wanted to get literary about it, what we're talking about is a kind of post-modern, post-genre pastiche—character-driven mysteries with whole scenes devoted to comedy, lots of sex, too many jokes, the occasional nail-gun crucifixion or human head in a lobster tank.  Ultimately, as the man said, we write the books we want to read.  Anything else seems like a waste of time.        

8.02.2011

Closing in

Getting close-ish to the end of the first draft of FIRE SEASON.  It's a fun book--lots of jokes, a certain amount of sex, a UFO sub-plot, a human head in a tank full of lobsters.  And fire.  Lots of fire.  What's not to like?

7.14.2011

The Dr Z Forum

A big howdy to any pals from Z-Talk who might happen by.  Lots of great guys there--and I learned a lot about amps/gear/etc.

7.13.2011

Bloggered.

Blogger's acting very weird--not sure what's up wit dat.

7.12.2011

More actual reader comments:

One from Blondie in Texas:
I loved High Season and Mating Season and look forward to Fire Season. I enjoy reading books set in the "real world". I'll admit the sex scenes get me a little worked up but that's actually a bonus. I know my husband appreciates it. Keep up the great work !!!
 
Happy to oblige, ma'am. 
 
And there's this very kind note from Bob Voges:
 
Picked up "High Season" last week in the Now Voyager bookstore in P-Town and just loved it. I especially loved the reference to seeing John Waters at the A&P, since I had seen him bicycling down Commercial St just a few minutes before I bought the book. You get P-Town exactly right, I think, and do for P-Town what Lawrence Shames has done for Key West. Looking forward to enjoying "Mating Season" and "Fire Season" and, I hope, many more. Thanks so much. 
 
No, thank YOU, Bob. Always happy to get feedback from readers (especially when I get stuff right).  Happy, too, that Now Voyager's still stocking HS. Will miss visiting P'town this year, but things being what they are it's just not possible.  Sigh.
 
 


2.12.2011

Scott Walker: "Give up 12% of your salary or I'll be forced to boil this kitten!"

From yesterday's NYT piece, it's worth noting that Walker offers a false choice:

"But Mr. Walker and Republican leaders said disassembling unions was not the point at all. The intent, Mr. Walker said, was to avoid balancing the budget some other way: by laying off some 6,000 state workers, and taking away Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of children."

It's only a choice between 12% cuts in compensation for public employees and layoffs and/or Medicaid cuts if tax increases for the wealthiest 1 or 2% of Wisconsin residents are off the table.  In fact, Walker lies when he says that this is anything less than a full frontal assault on public employees and public employee unions in Wisconsin.  Stripping UW faculty/staff of their right to collective bargaining is a purely political act.  It has nothing to do with balancing the budget; it's a naked and cynical attempt to kneecap unions that Walker perceives as political enemies. 

Also from the NYT: "'In these tough times, I think people are going to feel that this is not that much to ask,' said Jeff Fitzgerald, the Republican speaker of the State Assembly. 'Everyone is going to have to pitch in.'"

Everyone, Mr. Fitzgerald?  Really?  Because if John Menard was also getting a 12% tax increase, I'd feel a little bit better about this.  A little.

7.23.2010

Actual Reader Comment!

From reader "Ann."  This one was so awesome I thought it deserved a post of its own:

"I am half way this this [sic] book and I have never read such trash language in my life in a mystery book. I can read 3 to 4 books a week just reading at night and I was totally disgusted with this one. I chose it because of the setting...Cape Cod..which I love and I am enjoying the mystery part of it but I feel all the foul mouthing [sic] crap in it is uncalled for. I cannot believe you come from a place like Wisconsin and write such trash but of course you are far left (from some of your writing in the book) so that figures...anything goes. I wish you well but if this is an example of your type of writing I will not buy your books again. Yes I am a female. "

She seems to have mistaken me for the author(s) of the Nancy Drew series.

7.20.2010

Government Doesn't Create Jobs

So, what--I don't have job?  The other thousand-odd people employed by UWEC don't have jobs?  This is one of the Republican talking points that's always mystified me, and both of the Republican front-runners for governor here have adopted it, big time. 

The idea is so pervasive in our culture that it was even parroted recently by Obama: never mind that it's obviously, patently untrue.  Government creates millions of jobs, many of which even pay reasonably well and offer decent benefits.  Government workers in turn create other jobs: we hire plumbers, babysitters, a kid who mows the lawn; we spend our money on the same stuff private-sector workers spend theirs on--maintaining our house, car payments, dry-cleaning, food; most of what we make goes right back into the local economy.  Universities, in particular, have a known multiplying effect: for every dollar the state of Wisconsin puts into the UW system, it gets back something like $1.60 in economic activity--and, of course, it gets a more educated populace. 

The other hot Republican idea right now is eliminating pensions for public-sector workers (and then, no doubt, they'll go after our healthcare, and then and then and then).  Here's the rationale, as I understand it: most private-sector workers no longer receive pensions—they were swindled out of them a generation ago, and told to go gamble their savings at the Wall Street dog track by putting them in 401Ks.  So why should-public sector workers be any less fucked over?  People should not have to pay taxes to create jobs that don't suck as bad as theirs!  Basically, the fact that some government jobs don't completely suck flies in the face of Republican ideology, so the obvious thing a Republican governor would want to do is insure the total sucky-ness of all those government jobs the government doesn't create.  Or something.

7.14.2010

UWEC installs new sculpture!


It's entitled: "The Study of Structure, Blood Cells and Magnetism," and according to UWEC's press release, it was "designed by artist Susan Walsh to represent the values and activities within the science facilities at Phillips Hall."  I get the magnet and the comparatively huge strand of (grey) blood cells, but what's with the tomato cage?

7.13.2010

Little-known perks of being a published author: true story.

So we spent a week at the in-laws out in L.A., fine time had by all. Saturday, the day before we're scheduled to fly back, I discover that my wallet's missing--flat gone. We turn the house upside down, search the cars, retrace our steps back to the noodle joint where we'd had lunch (last time I'd taken my wallet out to get at my Visa card), no freaking wallet, nada, zilch, vanished, gonezo, n'existe pas. It's really just a card case--Visa, debit card, faculty ID, insurance cards, driver's license. No driver's license! I'm screwed! How am I going to board a plane at LAX, which has the meanest, most pissed-off TSA crew in the country (outside of Philadelphia, maybe) without a government issued photo ID, which, we're told, we MUST have?

I call Delta--they tell me that yes, I am in fact royally and completely screwed. Good luck getting home, buddy. I try to call TSA: turns out you can't actually call TSA to ask a question—they have a phone number, but you can only use it to apply for a job or report suspicious persons. So my wife and I drive out to LAX a day early to see if we can talk to a TSA supervisor. We actually get to do this--very nice guy named Supervisor Serrano, of the baggage screening department. He says, "They'll take you aside, put you in a booth, ask you some questions to try to prove who you are. They got you in the data base--don't worry about that. It may take a few minutes, but probably they'll let you on the plane. Big brother is watching, right?" This is both reassuring and disturbing, but we go home feeling a bit less stressed about things.

Still, when we get to the airport the next morning, I'm a little apprehensive. What will they ask me? How long will it take? Will the TSA agent be reasonable, or in the more common body-cavity search mode? We check my bag with my wife and kids' stuff, then head upstairs to security. When I get to the podium, we explain what happened--wallet lost, no government-issued ID.

"But," my dazzlingly intelligent wife says, "he does have an unconventional photo ID."

"Okay," the TSA guy at the podium says--he's young, friendly. "Let's see the unconventional photo ID."

I pull a copy of HIGH SEASON out of my briefcase, show him my name and author photo. "That's me," I say.

The TSA guy laughs. "That's a first," he says, initialing my boarding pass. "Have a good flight."