S.G. Browne

Fiction Friday: The Big Sleep

Welcome to Fiction Friday: Lucky Bastard Edition, where I’m spotlighting the novels that influenced and inspired the writing of Lucky Bastard.

Last week I interviewed Ian M. Dudley, author of Marlowe and the Spacewoman. In Dudley’s novel, the main character is a futuristic clone who has taken on the identify of a famous fictional detective. In The Big Sleep, written by Raymond Chandler more than 70 years ago, the real Philip Marlowe makes his literary debut.

First, a little background:

Prior to writing Lucky Bastard, I hadn’t read a lot of detective fiction. And what I had read was years ago and mostly forgettable. But as I’d decided to make Nick Monday, my main character, a private detective, I thought it would be a good idea to do a little reading research before I got started.

On the advice of a couple of members of my writers’ group, who had both written novels that featured private detectives as protagonists and contained some mystery/noir elements, the first book I picked up was Raymond Chandler’s debut novel written in 1939. And if The Big Sleep is the only book I would have read, I wouldn’t have gone wrong.

I was hooked on the first page. The narrative voice, humor, style, and tone pulled me in like a pair of inviting arms and held me in their embrace.

Without getting into any plot details: the story moves along at a brisk pace and the mystery unfolds page by page, keeping you turning them, until you arrive at a satisfying conclusion and can’t wait to pick up another Chandler novel and get back into the world of Philip Marlowe.

Even though the plot is compelling and the story well-crafted, it’s the writing that brings you back. Chandler has a knack for narrative drive and creating characters and writing dialogue that seems like it could have happened. And it never gets dull.

While I didn’t know much about Chandler before I read The Big Sleep, I’ve learned that he is considered one of the fathers of hard-boiled detective fiction and has had an immense influence on other writers of the genre. Consider me influenced.

Purchase The Big Sleep at:

Filed under: Fiction Fridays,Lucky Bastard,Movies and Books — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 7:00 am

Confessions of a Writer

Okay. I admit it.

As a full-time-stay-at-home writer and my own boss, it’s often a bit of a challenge to stick to a schedule and maintain some discipline, considering that the only one keeping me in line and making me accountable is myself.

No one’s holding me to a deadline.
No one’s giving me performance reviews.
No one’s looking over my shoulder.

Unless you count the mannequin in sunglasses, Hawaiian shirt, and Peter Grimm hat standing over my left shoulder, six feet away.

(But that’s another story.)

Self-motivation is something every writer struggles with at one time or another. And with all of the distractions we have today (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), it’s hard to believe that anyone ever gets anything written.

Which is why you’ll often see me post to Facebook or Twitter early in the day and then disappear. I can’t stay logged in and connected all day long. If I don’t unplug, I’ll never meet my own self-imposed deadlines. Which, admittedly, are written in pencil and chalk more often than in permanent marker.

On the flip side, because I’m my own boss, I’ll often work until 10:00 or 11:00PM. So even though I might get distracted and go out for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to meet a friend for lunch or catch a matinee at the movie theater or take a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, I’ll more often than not log ten hours of work per day.

Granted, not all of that time is spent writing. I rarely write for more than 4-6 hours a day. My brain burns out. I’m not interested in getting words down just for the sake of getting words down. I’m interested in making the words count more than I am in reaching a word count.

But when you throw in time spent on Facebook and Twitter, along with answering e-mails and following up on e-mails, updating my website, and writing the occasional blog, interview, or guest post, the hours eventually add up.

Fortunately, I enjoy what I do. All of it. Okay, most of it. Sometimes I feel like I spend too much time in front of my computer and not enough time interacting with human beings. Another confession. I’m full of them today.

Maybe it’s because I’m tired. Or rambling. Or trying to figure out how to wrap up this post. Whatever it is, I better get back to work because the mannequin is starting to make me nervous.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 7:00 am

Fiction Friday: Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be spotlighting several authors and novels that inspired and influenced me in the writing of my third novel, Lucky Bastard (scheduled for release on April 17). And the first one up: Marlowe and the Spacewoman.

“It’s hard to stay clean when even the soap’s out to get you.”

That’s the tagline on the cover of Marlowe and the Spacewoman, the debut novel by Ian M. Dudley—a humorous sci-fi/dystopian/detective story about a clone-turned-private-eye who lives in the 22nd century.

Ian is part of my writers’ group here in San Francisco and I had the opportunity to workshop his novel several years ago. The novel was actually written in 2002 as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but, as Ian said, it sat around for a while before he decided to do something with it. I’m glad he did.

I asked Ian a few questions about his novel, which he was kind enough to answer below.

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Describe Marlowe and the Spacewoman in twenty-five words or less.

“To avoid death, a spare parts clone-turned-private-eye, made redundant by medical advances, must prove a woman who crashed to Earth is indeed from outer space.”

Does clone-turned-private-eye count as one word, or four? If one word, I made it. Otherwise, I went a bit over. Sorry. Man, and I thought twitter was hard!

Your novel includes a talking Rottweiler, a codependent toothbrush, a genetically modified parrot, and a sentient bar of homicidal soap. How much acid did you drop in college?

I’ve never in my life dropped acid. I handle my drugs with extreme care so they don’t fall on the ground and get dirty.

Actually, I wish I HAD dropped acid at some point in my life. It would make a lot of people far more comfortable about where my ideas come from. Myself included. To reassure my family and friends, I tell them my freshman roommate spiked my Jolt Cola with LSD when I wasn’t looking. It’s a lie, but it makes everyone feel better about the situation.

How far in the future does your novel take place? And would you want to live there?

The book takes place a century in the future, when we will finally get those flying cars science fiction has been promising for decades. The world’s more than a bit dystopian, so even though Marlowe manages to do pretty well for himself despite cloying toothbrushes and soap out to get him, I wouldn’t want to live there. However, I would LOVE to visit the place.

I don’t think I could write a book with a setting I didn’t want to visit, or characters I didn’t want to meet. I derive a great deal of pleasure figuring out the idiosyncrasies of a world and then forcing my characters to think fast in order to navigate them. I have a bit of a cruel streak.

That said, I’ve yet to create a setting I’d want to live in. I’m not sure what that means, though. Have I yet to write the ultimate (for me) book? I like that idea – this awesome novel that knocks you off your feet, lurking in the dark corners of my imagination, waiting for me to tease it out. The thought of something like that still in me fills me with a sense of optimism. And a smidgen of dread.

You include a lot of details about what the future might hold. Did you do a lot of research? Or do you just have a wild imagination?

I started to do research, but then it got hard and I gave up.

The star system Nina (the Spacewoman) claims to have returned from is real and has planets around it. So for that, yes, I happily plugged away in science journals and web sites. But then I thought, “You’re an engineer, figure out what percentage of the speed of light she’d have to be traveling at, including acceleration and deceleration, to add to the book’s realism.” This is how I discovered that an engineer is NOT an astrophysicist, no matter how much he’d like to think he could be. So for the really hard science stuff, I…avoided…potential sources of embarrassment by being a little vague on the details.

The other crazy stuff, I just took what’s going on in the world today and extrapolated to an extreme. I certainly hope none of it actually comes to pass! Well, most of it. I like the idea of super-intelligent parrots controlling the teamsters. I think they’d do a better job of it than humans.

And then there’s the spray-on clothes. Male-dominated marketing for sci-fi books inspired that, but after I wrote the book, some university actually invented it! Holy crap! I need to lose some weight, pronto!

Your title character is named after the iconic detective created by Raymond Chandler. Were Chandler’s novels an inspiration for Marlowe and the Spacewoman?

Absolutely. Both his novels and the film noir movies that they inspired. In fact, I called the reading and viewing ‘research,’ to get back to your previous question, but it felt too fun to be real research.

I’ve always viewed that era a bit wistfully. Big, ugly American cars, sharp-minded sleuths trying to make sense of those cars and the criminals who drove them, and the femmes fatale always betraying those sleuths. We need to bring back the femmes fatale. You knew they were gonna stab you in the back, but they were so smolderingly beautiful you just didn’t care. A man would find himself wishing she’d hurry up and finish backstabbing that other guy so she’d come over and give him his turn.

THAT is how it was done in those days, and it was awesome! Plus I love a good mystery, well told. And Chandler was a master of doing that.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your novel?

This book has been a major part of my life for years, and I can’t express with words the elation I feel now that it’s finally out in the world. You can find excerpts (as well as the option to buy!) via the links below. I hope people will check it out.

Also, while a stand-alone novel, Marlowe and the Spacewoman is the first in a series. The second book, Balloons of the Apocalypse, is almost done. If you love Beethoven, you’re gonna HAVE to read that book.

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Get your copy of Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Follow Ian M. Dudley on Twitter or visit him on his Blog

Filed under: Fiction Fridays,Lucky Bastard,Movies and Books — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 7:03 am

Lucky Bastard & Shooting Monkeys Pre-Order

I’m proud to announce the (almost) two month countdown to the publication of my third novel, Lucky Bastard, which is scheduled for release on April 17 in hardback and e-book. I’ve marked the occasion by publishing information for the novel on my web site, including:

Cast of Characters
Chapter 1 Sneak Peek

And, of course, at the bottom of each page I’ve included links for various sites where you can pre-order a copy.

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be blogging about the book, how it came about, and taking pictures of various locations throughout San Francisco that appear in the book and giving some background on the writing of the novel as it relates to those locations.

Also, since I found inspiration from a number of authors and novels in the writing of Lucky Bastard, I’ll be spotlighting the novels that influenced me in a series of blog posts on Fiction Fridays.

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In addition to the upcoming release of Lucky Bastard, I’m excited to announce the impending e-publication of my first collection of short stories, Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel, an original e-book of ten dark and twisted humorous tales scheduled for release on March 27.

Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel is a mix of never-before-published tales and stories that have appeared previously in print anthologies, all gathered together for the first time. It includes stories about extraterrestrial sex toys, a group of professional guinea pigs, a zombie gigolo, and a reality TV show starring the Seven Deadly Sins. It also contains the stories that gave birth to both Lucky Bastard and Breathers.

If you’d like to learn more about the stories included in Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel, or if you’d like to pre-order it for your Nook or Kindle, just click on the image for the book cover. Or just CLICK HERE.


Baseball + Sex + Writing = This Blog Post

Men are always using baseball to make analogies about sex:

  • He strikes out a lot
  • He only got to second base
  • He has control problems

It’s just what we do. Relating sports to sex. I’m sure there’s some Freudian connection to be made there, but I’m not the man to do it. Suffice it to say, we like our sports analogies.

Which is where the writing part comes into play. At least for me.

In baseball, when a pitcher is in the middle of throwing a no-hitter or a perfect game, no one talks to him. He sits alone on the bench at the end of the dugout and no one says a word to him because no one wants to jinx him. No one wants to put the kibosh on the no-hitter. So at the very least, even if anyone talks to the pitcher, no one talks about the no-hitter.

I’m superstitious in the same way about my writing. Specifically about whatever I’m currently working on (aka my Work In Progress or WIP). I don’t like to talk about it while I’m in the middle of it because I’m afraid to jinx it. To take the energy away from it. Which is why you’ll rarely, if ever, hear me mention my WIP on my blog or on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere else. Some writers can talk about it all the way through the process, but I’ve never been comfortable doing so.

Part of that comes from the fact that I make up the story as I go and sometimes I get stuck trying to figure out what comes next. This isn’t something I exactly want to share with others:

“How do I get my main character back on the roof of the hotel?”
“What happens when my protagonist gets stripped of his immortality?”
“The narrator just killed and ate his parents. Now what?”

This is something most writers experience at some point in almost everything they write. It’s the self-doubt that creeps into the creative process. Sometimes we nail it and we know it and it feels really good. But most of the time, there’s at least one moment where we read what we’ve written and we think: “What a piece of crap.”

Which is when perspective and editing come into play.

So when it comes to talking about my WIP, you likely won’t hear me mention much of anything about it until that final pitch is thrown and the last out is recorded and I can raise my hands in the air and celebrate what I’ve accomplished.

And with any luck, when I send it off to my agent, I’ll hit a home run.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 10:05 am