Rick's Blog for 2002

This entries on this page start at the bottom and read up. It covers from the beginning of rickblechta.com (November 2001) until the end of 2002. Most of it deals with the publication (and the aftermath) of Shooting Straight in the Dark. If you want to find out what it's like to have your book published by a major house, this is the place to be. By the way, since this page goes back to the beginning of the site (more or less), I left the entries going backward. Hope you don't find this too confusing!

December 15: It seems hard to believe that it's been a month since I last entered something. Perhaps it has something to do with the approaching holiday season.

The signing in Stoney Creek (November 23rd) was an interesting exercise since I hadn't yet done one of these "park yourself at the front of a bookstore in a mall and watch people walk by totally ignoring you". I'd stare at them and they'd stare at me. Fifteen minutes of that got pretty old, so I started looking for opportunities to get conversations started. It helped that I had bookmarks to hand out. Still, it was difficult to get people to stop and chat. It's a humbling experience to be reminded that the VAST majority of people in this wide world have no idea who I am, and quite frankly, could care less. One rather blowsy woman walked by and said loudly, "I've read that. It's very good." "Which one?" I countered, indicating my three novels which were on the table in front of me. "All of them. They're all great." Then she started laughing as she walked away. I really had to bite my tongue since I do have a bad habit of making sharp remarks ("Gee, I wasn't aware that people like you could be taught how to read."). That was not a nice moment since I wasn't feeling that good about what I was doing anyway.

I did meet a few nice people, though, especially one named Amber. She's an aspiring writer (a real Stephen King fan) and wanted to talk writing. What a terrific person and I wish her well. By the end of my signing, I came to the conclusion that the problem was not with the people walking by. How could I expect them to know (or care) who I am? A possible solution to having success at bookstore signings (unless you're Stephen King) is to drum up some of your own business. Make people think that something important is going on just down the hall. Next time, I'll bring along people to distribute handbills letting the public know what is going on at the bookstore and give them the felling that this is an "event". I'll also need to liase with the bookstore people more since, generally, they don't have much of a clue on how to drum up interest -- or the time to devote to it. Some advance publicity in the form of a local radio or TV interview wouldn't hurt. That's a tougher thing to get happening but not in the realm of impossibility.

This past Monday, my wife and I attended the surprise 50th birthday party for Paul Delong, one of the drummers for my old band Devotion. There were about 30 people there, many of whom I haven't seen for more years than I want to admit. (Walter Swolinski of Brutus fame, great to see you again!) It made me want to get down into the basement to fire up the old B3 or out to Coll Audio to play some hot licks on the mellotron. My big resolution for 2003 is to get more opportunities to perform. I still have the idea for a mellotron CD on the back burner and I'd like to get that project off the ground. I want to play more French horn, as well. For heaven's sake, I'm a musician and I should be playing as much as possible!

Since I probably won't find time to do an entry before the holidays, please let me take this opportunity to wish everyone the best of the season and voice my firm wish for peace in the coming year.

November 10: Well, at long last rickblechta.com has a guestbook. I must say that these things are a lot more complicated to get going than I thought they'd be. Seems as if you have to know programming and something called CGI (Common Gateway Interface). I spent way more time than I wanted to (or could afford to) researching this and when I finally got the whole thing put together, I discovered that my webspace provider doesn't support this sort of thing at the moment. Back to square one... I finally decided that I would use one of the "free" guest book hosting services, but you guessed it, the darn thing comes with those annoying banner ads and I can't really customize it as much as I would like. Still, it's better than nothing and when my webspace provider becomes CGI-compatible, I'll be ready to go with something that's exactly the way I want. Now please be kind and sign in on the Guest Book!

I was hoping by now to have announced a couple of very exciting things that are in the offing, but the wheels of publishing, the media, and indeed all those things one wants grind very slowly. The more you want it to happen, the slower it does. Still, the news has to come someday, so stay tuned! Happy Birthday to my cousin, Bill and to my sister, Lynette, tomorrow. There is also a link to my sister's business' website on the Links page. If you want a very special clothing item for someone very special, these are the folks to see. I guarantee it.

The new novel continues apace. Still no title as yet...

October 24: I'm home again, although pretty exhausted. Bouchercon was a lot of fun, as always, but it's not the sort of event to go to if you want to stay caught up on your sleep. It was good to see a lot of old friends and make a lot of new ones! (I'd like to extend a special hello to Jonathan and Bunny.) I wound up doing a one-hour reading on Sunday morning, something I was totally unprepared for. (I even had to borrow a copy of Shooting Straight!) A fair number of people showed up to it, surprising me since 9:00 in the morning is not a great time. The panel on which I appeared was also quite enjoyable. Everyone on it was interesting and Jesse Sublett did a great job as our last minute moderator. (Thanks, Jesse!) Ace Atkins (a really terrific writer) had some very thought-provoking things to say and admirably stayed on track when he answered questions, something I always have a great deal of trouble with--as anyone who's spoken to me is well aware. The best times for me were late evenings hanging around the bar and just talking with people. It always amazes me how generous and gracious most people are. It's also good to hang around with other crime writers since it reinforces what we're trying to accomplish. After all, this is a pretty odd way to make a living...

Now it's back to work on the new novel which is approaching the 100th page. Still don't have a good title for the darn thing. Watch the Links page for some new additions very shortly.

October 15: I'm in the middle of tying up a lot of loose ends before I leave for Austin very early on Thursday morning. I'm also hoping that good things might be happening in Frankfort where the big international book fair is underway. This is the place where a great number of foreign rights sales are made, and for someone seriously getting started in a writing career, foreign publications are an important rung up the ladder, besides being pretty lucrative. Foreign rights sales and movie options are like free money to a writer since you've already done all of the work and now you're just getting handed more cash for the same work. Don't get the feeling that I'm going to be rolling in dough if my agent manages to come up with something in Frankfort. For somebody at my level, the amounts of money offered are generally not very much. I think of it as just like getting a nice present. So, with any amount of good luck, there might be something good on the horizon. I wonder what Europeans or people in the far east would make of Kit and her cronies...

I'm really looking forward to the Bouchercon next weekend. I'm also looking forward to seeing Austin. My sister Lynette has been there a few times (her husband, Scott, hails from Beaumont) and she tells me it's a very nice city. Having never been to Texas in the first place, I'm ready for anything. The committee putting the convention together seems to have come up with something particularly good: a ton of interesting panels and a good number of international guests. The banquet menu for Saturday also sounds very intriguing. Hopefully, the copies of Shooting Straight that my publisher was sending down have made it. I never heard back from the person in charge of the "goodie bags" so I don't know what's up. It's too late to get them there now, so I'll just have to trust that they made it. The only thing I'm not looking forward to is the plane trip. I have to make a connection in Atlanta, both going and coming, and the last time I had to do that (for the Bouchercon in Monterey, CA), my bags wound up in Calgary, Alberta, and took three days to make it back to Toronto. I certainly don't want that to happen again!

September 29: I just got back from the 13th annual Word on the Street here in Toronto. The Crime Writers of Canada booth was on the lesser travelled north side of Queen Street and the amount of traffic was quite disappointing. What was really interesting, though, was that I was facing a stretch of sidewalk on which my main character travels quite a few times during the course of my most recent novel--since she supposedly lives just down the street. I told passersby this and said that if they were to buy my book and wait around, she just might wander by. I don't think they believed me...

The beginning of this week saw me in Ottawa for the Writers Festival. They sent us there by first class train, and I have to say that after my experience, Via 1 is the ONLY way to travel. The reading was great and the festival folks really took care of us. Thanks again to all the volunteers who make these book festivals go. I know how much work they are to do. I also got to make the acquaintence of William Deverell (there's a link for his website on the Links Page), a writer whom I'm ashamed to say I hadn't previously read. I bought a copy of his latest, The Laughing Falcon, for reading on the trip back to Toronto. I couldn't put it down and read far into the night. This man can flat out WRITE. Go out and purchase a copy. It's due out shortly in mass market paperback.

Check out my new bookmark on the In the Press Page (no longer available--Ed.). I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. Thanks to Kal and Garrett for helping me get it out on time AND looking so good. Anyone purchasing a book directly from me will now get one, as well as anyone who asks--especially at Bouchercon.

September 1: After finishing Cemetery of Lost Names -- which was a very long, hard slog -- I vowed that I would never again seriously work on a novel until I have most of the plot points worked out before starting in.. A lot about writing an extended piece of fiction is like a voyage of discovery and--at least for me--getting to know the characters is the thing that makes writing so enjoyable. It is quite amazing how incredible insights into a character's background, maybe how they would carry on a conversation (that might never even appear in the story but tells me something about who they are), what they enjoy eating, what they like and don't like, all of these will pop into the writer's mind at the oddest moments. It's quite strange and wonderful when it starts happening.

So, I've been spending my time since finishing CoLN getting to know everything about the characters who will be inhabiting my next novel. I can say at this point that it features a failed, reclusive rock star, the daughter of a Mafia Don and various people who lurk just offstage, on the fringes of the music biz. I've also been carrying through on my vow. I now know how the darn thing will end -- unless I come up with an even better idea during the course of writing it!

Oh yeah, check out the Appearances page for more details on the Ottawa Writers Festival "Mystery Night". Hope to see you there!

July 30: Boy! It's tough to sit at a computer and update one's website when the weather is so glorious. Please don't tell me that it's too hot. Canada is very seldom too hot. What this country is far too often for my liking is cold.. End of weather-related rant.

There's going to be a publicity push for SSitD, mostly in the Toronto area for part of August and into September. Hopefully, this will include some interviews and appearances which I really enjoy doing. I may also be involved in something much larger, but I can't say more about it at the moment since it's far from final yet.

The other big news is that I will be appearing at the Ottawa Writers Festival in September for a "McClelland & Stewart Mystery Night", possibly at the National Library. There will be readings and a signing and probably a question and answer period. I'm especially honoured to be asked because one of the other panelists is Peter Robinson. The third writer is yet to be confirmed but is equally prestigious. Pretty heady company, eh? More details will be coming soon.

Also coming soon will be a tribute/bio page for one of the truly great guitarists ever, and someone most people have never heard of: Lionel "Linc" Chamberland. "Why a guitar player?" you might ask. Linc has a brief mention in Shooting Straight since I made him Kit's guitar teacher when she was growing up in Connecticut. I was very lucky to get to hear Linc play many times when I was an underaged musical wannabe growing up in Mamaroneck, NY. Linc's band, The Orchids, was the house band at a place (oddly foreshadowing what was to come in my life) called The Canada Lounge. It turns out that several readers of my book have heard bits and pieces about this extraordinary musician and have gotten in touch with me to ask about him. Two of my good friends from those years in Mamaroneck got to study with Linc and I'm in the process of pulling together some information and hopefully some photos. Watch for it. If I can figure out how to do it, I will even make a download available of The Orchids recording of "Got My Mojo Working" which has an absolutely mind-blowing guitar solo by Linc. Watch for it!

July 11: Some of you may wonder where I've gotten off to for the past two months. Well, I was pretty well chained to the old computer during that time trying to complete the re-write of Cemetery of Lost Names, my fourth novel and it took far more time to accomplish than I ever would have imagined. During June, I also attended Bloody Words here in Toronto where I was very honoured to be on a panel with Peter Robinson and Walter Mosely. The convention was also quite enjoyable since I got to see a lot of old friends (crime writers and readers) and meet many new ones. (I also brought back a ton of books to read over the summer.) Immediately after that was Book Expo Canada where I spent two days meeting with people, signing some books and just hanging out with the booksellers and publishing folks. Oh yeah, the Arthur Ellis awards dinner was in there someplace! Congrats to Michelle Spring for Best Novel, Jon Redfern for Best First Novel, my former co-editor of Fingerprints, Norah McClintock for Best Juvenile Novel (her third Arthur) and the ever-animated and bubbly Mary Jane Maffini for Best Short Story (her second). Well done!

As of today, Cemetery of Lost Names is now off to publisherland where I hope it will be well-received. It's been a very long haul for this one. The genesis goes back to 1995 when I had a terrific idea for a plot and realized I already had two characters that would fit in quite well: Victoria Morgan and her husband Rocky Lukesh from The Lark Ascending. The story was originally supposed to take place once again in the UK with a chapter or three in Vienna, but that got reversed when I had a very serendipitous discussion about the capitol of Austria with my sister who had visited several times. Deciding that I simply had to soak in the ambiance of this place if I was going to write about it convincingly, I set off on a 9-day visit with my trusty editorial assistant and German translator, Vicki. The trip was eye-opening and very productive and the Viennese people I met with could not have been more helpful, even to the point of coming up with the title of the story (thank you, Gerhard!). However, having fallen completely in love with the place, my new thriller wound up at times reading more like a travelogue with a few murders tossed in.

Enter Pat Kennedy, that queen among editors, who read the darn thing, basically said, "It reads like a travelogue with a few murders tossed in. You'd better do something about this." I'd also tried mixing in a bit of Stephen King into the story line which really didn't work, which meant that I had a number of major changes to work on. So, last summer, I picked up again and headed off to my favourite European city, where we spent 6 wonderful days researching all the things I hadn't bothered to research the first time (not realizing I would need them). Our great friend, Tina Venesz (check out her website in Links) once again pulled out all the stops to help me and make our stay such that we didn't want to leave. Once Shooting Straight in the Dark was "put to bed" last winter, I set to work completely re-jigging the plot to COLN following Pat's suggestions, cutting the "I Love Vienna" parts to a minimum, coming up with a terrific substitute for my occult experimentation and slicing out 139 pages in the process. The one thing I can say with certainty at this point--being way too close to it to have any perspective--is that the manuscript sure prints out a hell of a lot quicker than it used to...

May 12: The past two weeks have been exceptionally busy. The reading I did for the U of T-sponsored series was especially interesting in that the location for it (The Hootch on Queen Street here in Toronto) is about seven blocks from where Kit lives. As a matter of fact, if the place had existed at the time I wrote the book (and I'd known about it), I would have used it for the location in Chapter 2 where Kit plays a gig with her friend Glynis. It was exactly the sort of place I'd been imagining. Odd to be sitting there reading from the novel...

Andre gave me a CD with all the photos from the launch and party and I've been wading through them, sorting the ones I want to use on the site and optimizing them for the web. Several will be up shortly on the Photo Gallery page.

Why have I been busy the past two weeks? I've been trying to finish up the re-write on novel #4, tentatively called The Cemetery of Lost Names. It's set in Vienna and has as the main characters Victoria Morgan and her husband Rocky from my second novel, The Lark Ascending. Pat wanted me to make a major plot change which in consulation with the people who had read the ms seemed like an excellent idea (Pat has a lot of these) and will make the book far stronger and more cohesive. Trouble is, it involves tearing the last half of the book to shreds and reconnecting the parts which will remain. That's a tough thing to do when you're not writing full-time since it's difficult to maintain the thread of your thought processes. Everything is coming together, though, at long last, and I now have a very clear idea of how I want to handle the changes. Tory seems to "like" the new direction, too, since she's behaving herself through the re-write process. In her previous outing, the plot took a wrong turn while I was writing the first draft, and she didn't like the demands I was making on her and refused to "cooperate". It wasn't until I realized that I was asking her to do something totally uncharacteristic and changed the direction the sequence of events that writing her part in it smoothed out and went very quickly. Odd how this sort of thing happens with characters. You can almost get into real conversations with them as you try to figure out how to block scenes and write dialogue. Please don't think I'm nuts. It happens to a lot of other authors -- whether they'll admit it or not!

April 29: I'm now fully recovered from the launch. Many thanks to everyone who came out, and to those who couldn't make it but sent their best wishes (and orders for books!) anyway. I think we all had a great time and you all bought so many books. Wow! Thanks also needs to go to the M&S folks who helped organize things (and attended the launch, too!) and to Marian Misters, JD Singh and Wendy (Damn! I never have learned her last name!) who gave up an evening to get Shooting Straight off to a roaring start. The place was packed and very lively. Photos will be available since Andre was snapping away all evening. I'll let you know when they make it to the photo gallery.

I almost didn't make it to the launch, however, because my stupid vehicle decided to break down, deep in the wilds of Mississauga late that afternoon. I was on my way to Oakville to pick up Jo-Anne Yale, one of the wonderful people to whom the book is dedicated, when the van's alternator gave up the good fight. Unfortunately, that caused the ABS to fire--right in the middle of a 3-lane highway! Your faithful writer almost cashed in his cookies in that mess and I would have taken my long-time friend, Ray MacDonald with me. Managing to limp to a nearby Canadian Tire, I called the people who own the graphic design firm I work for and they luckily hadn't yet left for the launch. We piled into their car and screamed into Toronto in the middle of rush hour, taking a bunch of back road routes I knew from my days as a cabby, arriving at Sleuth of Baker Street with about ten minutes to spare. (Great driving, Formula One Kal!) You know those dreams you have where you just can't seem to get someplace important and you really need to be there? Well, I lived that last Thursday, and believe me, it's NO FUN! Bet this kind of thing never happens to Elmore Leonard...

April 13: Well, it's been a rather frustrating two weeks. I had everything organized, addressed, sealed, you name it, before I took the flyers down to M&S. They got them out the same day and I sat back and waited. And waited. And waited. This past Monday, I found out why they'd all seemed to disappear off the face of the earth when four bundles of them arrived on my doorstep. Seems that Canada Post changed the rate for self-sealed mailers from $.48 to $.96! I don't know what their reasoning is for charging double, but even they don't seem to know what the rate is since the four or five flyers I mailed to people outside the GTA got delivered just fine, albeit very slowly. To say the least, I am not impressed with Canada Post at the moment.
Thankfully, my darling wife had the day off to deal with the mess. She took the flyers back down to M&S and they got them posted again and will now have to hassle with CanPost to get some of their money back. They were really great about the whole thing and jumped right on it. Thanks to Laura Cameron and the M&S mail room crew!

The very nicest thing, though, is that I now have some copies of the book and it looks TERRIFIC! The cover is arresting, the insides easy to read and very elegant. I couldn't be happier with the whole thing. This is a book that, quite simply, should be on everybody's bookshelf the world over. Come on! Get out and support my favourite author! ;) Shooting Straight in the Dark should be available in your local bookstore (assuming you live in Canada) by April 25th. If you don't see it, please ask them to order a copy. If you live outside Canada, it is available through chapters.indigo.ca. At worst, you can order it directly from me. I have some advance copies available right now. Go to the Order Books page for more info. If you want a signed book (and can't come to the launch on the 25th), you'll have to order from me, I guess. Hope to hear from you!

March 29: The flyers for the launch are back from the printer and look really fantastic--except that someone ignored the fold lines that were put on so the clever folding job we designed didn't quite work out! That's a bit of a disappointment since it was quite clear on the proofs we sent with the job. Speaking with my graphic designer's hat on, sometimes I think that the printers don't look at the proofs that are sent to them. (They also say that designers send unusable proofs all the time--and a lot of times they're right.) Special thanks must go to Kal Honey (one of the owners of Eye-to-Eye Design where I work) for his terrific design. If you'd like a copy, just let me know. It's certain to become an in-demand collectable in years to come... And to those of you interested in such things, I did get the database done, all 265 entries – a real trudge since I wasn't sure if I had a current address in many cases and that had to be checked. (Thank God for the Internet!) Still, the way I look at it, next time I only have to update and add to it. That will be a lot less time-consuming.

I'm now looking forward to seeing the actual book since my editor informs me she okayed the press proofs for the cover and the bluelines for the guts. I had thought that I'd be seeing those. However, since I trust her completely, I'm certain everything will be just perfect. In the meantime, I still have a lot of work on my next, Cemetery of Lost Names, since the plot requires a fair bit of revision and that throws a lot of other things out of whack. I also feel the book could stand losing around sixty pages since it reads "a bit long" and I'm sure Pat Kennedy will say the same thing. I'm just heading her off at the pass! ;)

Also, seeing as it's March 29th, I would like to wish my eldest, Karel, a Very Happy 23rd Birthday!

March 9: The home page has been completely re-done, because it now contains a jpg of the flyer which is going to be mailed (or e-mailed) out shortly, promoting the launch. My thanks to one of my employers, the phelegmatic Kal Honey for the terrific design. Since the flyer is a two-sided "roll fold" as we say in the design business, there's also a second side which has a bit of a teaser and a place for the address label and stamp. I’ve decided not to put that up on the site for the moment since I want the home page to have a clean look and one image is enough for that. I hope you like it. I think Kal's design is exceptionally elegant and strong as well as vibrant to look at. If you want a copy of the full-colour printed version (sure to be a hot collectible, just drop me an e-mail. Consider it an invite to the launch--which is what it actually is...

March 1: Things are moving along with the production of the book and it should be on press very shortly. I'm not positive about it, but I assume I’ll be given the chance to look at the blue lines, and God willing, everything will be perfect. We're also in the home stretch for the flyer design for the launch. Then comes the really BORING part of the whole exercise: making up the database which will be used for mailing out the flyers. At least I taught myself to touch type around five years ago...

There are some new links on the Links Page. Check out the sites! I've also corrected the many typos that people have discovered wandering through my various pages. Thanks for the help!

February 17: I've been rather busy with other things the past two weeks. We're in the middle of doing the invites and flyer for the launch and I have to input a whole whack of names into a database so we can send them out. This is the part of being an author which isn't a lot of fun, but it’s also (obviously) very necessary. Otherwise I'm going to be signing books at the launch for my wife and two kids and one or two others who wander in off the street by accident.

February 2: We finally have the launch date (April 25th) and now the slug work begins to let people know and to get them to come out to it. There will be good food and various beverages, so it you're reading this and live anywhere near Toronto, please come! For info, check out Appearances.
Various things have been changed around on the site to reflect this news (sorry about the flash on the home page, but I wanted to make certain I got your attention!) and also the fact that the cover of Shooting Straight in the Dark is now final. You can find various examples of it around the site, but the largest one is in the Photo Gallery. Be sure to check it out. Thanks to Andre, Terri, Kim and the phlegmatic Ernie ( you should see this man operate Photoshop. It's scary...), I think it’s quite a striking cover. Let's hope the book trade and the browsing public think so, too.

Yes, I know I promised a Guestbook. It’s still in the works. I’m sure that most of the entries when I do put it up will consist of wise-ass comments from friends and relations. You know who you are! Happy Ground Hog’s Day.

January 28: I guess that everything is ready from my end at this point. The blue line stage is when I'll next see Shooting Straight and that's the last step before the book is actually printed, so things are fast coming to a head. Now it's time to start looking towards the launch and all that entails. M&S has set an "on sale" date of March 26 (exciting in itself!) which Pat figures they should be able to make. The launch will take place shortly after that, allowing for production delays or other snafus. There's a lot more going on than I can talk about at the moment (not wanting to jump the gun), so pay attention over the next few week. Exciting things are happening!

On the website front, there is now a page devoted to Mellotrons. I didn’t set out to have anything like this, but inquiring minds wanted to know. Read it if you’re interested in the silly things. The promised guest book is still under development…

January 19: This week was spent trying to get the final image of Kit and Shadow (played by Leslie and Wilbur) for the book's cover into its final form. The big guns (Photoshop-ically speaking) were called on, in the person of Photoshop Master Ernie Fisher who did the final scan from an 8x10 print and then went to work touching it up. The end result should be nothing short of terrific (the only reason I'm qualifying this is that the image still has to get by the printer, a person who has a lot of control over what the final result will look like), having precisely the atmosphere I wanted and bringing out all the strengths in Andre's original photo. My hat is off to this man and what he can do with a computer. It's rather scary watching what he can do with a photo. Hmmm... That gives me a great plot idea for a novel...

The remainder of the week (and there wasn't much) was spent working on the opening two chapters of the new novel. Sadly, the title I finally came up with has been used very recently by another author, but since I still have many pages to go before the first draft is complete, I figure some sort of good idea will eventually surface. Actually, Shooting Straight in the Dark had a different title almost up to the eleventh hour. I had originally wanted to call it Shot Full of Love (after the song of the same name) and was talked out of it by a very perspicatious publisher named Sylvia McConnell who thought the title was terrible. She was right, of course. Shows how much the author knows sometimes!

Lastly, I think the website needs a guest book which I'm going to try to pull together over the weekend. I have to admit that I'm terribly curious as to who has been looking at it. The will also shortly be some new additions to the music page.

January 14: Just a quick update. The Appearances page is now up and that's all the pages done -- to some extent. There are also several new links on the Links page. And in case you haven't noticed (or visited before), this page is now in reverse order so it will be easier to catch up on the Latest News.

January 12: It's been a busy week book-wise. On Monday, I spent a few hours with Adam Levin who has been handling the copy-editing on the book. He (and Pat) had obviously spent a lot of time going over my corrections to the galleys and the galleys themselves and uncovered a fair number of things that still needed fixing. It's nice to see that M&S spends so much time and effort (and expense) to make sure that their publications are as good as they can be--all this at a time when many houses don't even do one copy-edit anymore. Anyway, I think the exercise tightened the "focus" on a number of small points, sometimes as little as one word, and the story will be better for it. Pat wasn't present as she was attending the spring list sales meeting, trying to whip up the marketing and sales staff to support the books she's been involved with--mine being one of them. Having the sales people behind your book is critically important to its success and I plan on doing everything I can to help them out and compliment their efforts with my own. After all, it's not called The Book Business for nothing. Look at it this way: everything that's done until a book is released is equivalent to giving birth. Once the baby's born, the real work begins: bringing it up…

Oh, yeah, and I started a new novel this week. No title as yet, but it's already got a different tone to anything I've yet written. We'll see how far I can get before Shooting Straight again requires my undivided attention.

January 5: I hope that you all survived the holiday season. I’ve passed the time since returning from spending Christmas with our family by re-jigging the entire website. You see, my mother-in-law has a Windows PC and I hadn’t seen how bad the site looked on one of those--especially in Internet Explorer. It seems that if one is only willing to have a good-loo king site, then you have to commit to one platform and browser and lay out the pages with that in mind. If you want to look good on every platform and browser, then you have to compromise. That’s what I’ve tried to do with the re-work. The Table of Contents frame also got tossed and a new, far simpler version was created. It loads MUCH more quickly and operates better. I miss the blood spatters (only one person clued in to that little detail!), but I’m in a compromising mood at the moment. So check out the entire site and especially the new page, In the Press (devoted to press clippings) to see if you think rickblechta.com looks any better. If you’re on Windows, I can guarantee it will. Sadly, Mac users will now need to have better eyesight.

December 22: I did find some fairly bad "continuity" errors, the worst being the fact that Carolina (one of the "Ruthless Babes") secretly learned how to drive over the course of the story. This is a prime example of what I was talking about in the entry above. I figure that while at least 12 people have read the manuscript and I've been through it at least 25 times, it took until the eleventh hour to catch what is a fairly obvious error. Well, it was obvious to me... There were a few other continuity problems and words here and there that I was no longer satisfied with, but the fine-tuning is done. Now the book is back in M&S's court and I’m back on the website to finish it up and add some new things. Happy Holidays to you all!

December 15: I've just gotten the galleys back from M&S. Galleys these days are simply printouts of the typeset pages. (God bless computers! That's the typesetter in me speaking...) Anyway, the real guts of the book look terrific. They've done a nice job and typesetting is very readable even though they've had to close up the leading (space between lines) a bit to add an extra line to the page since the book was running to too many signatures (groups of pages within the binding). This stage is my last real kick at the can as far as changes go. The next time I'll see the book is at the blueline stage. Bluelines are actual proofs (think blueprints here) of the film from which the printer will make the plates to commit the book to paper. At that point, only really major errors can be dealt with because it means re-outputting the page and stripping it into the film flat. Soooo, I have to focus a lot of energy into these galleys to make sure that everything is just the way I want. There will be a couple of "amendments" to the final pages which Pat and I have already discussed and there's one change I made at the copy edit stage which I'd like to re-visit, but other than that, I guess errors are the biggest problem that I'll have to deal with. I wonder which ones no one will catch? There are always a few of them. In Knock on Wood, I caught a frighteningly bad one at the blueline stage. The book had already passed through 5 peoples' hands and no one had caught the fact that one of the characters was described as wearing a "fir coat". A spell checker ain't going to catch that sucker! (It does make a great image, though, doesn't it?) Anyone who's dealt with the printed word lives in terror of a mistake like that creeping by those who guard against such things. Wish me luck that I catch the worst of 'em!

December 8: I've been spending the past little while working on this website. You'll find some changes on the Music Page, and the "photos of the photo shoot" are now up in the Photo Gallery. There are some new pages as well: The Lark Ascending and an Order page, not to mention the Links page. Check them out and stay tuned for more changes as time allows.

November 30: The final design of the cover is pretty well done. It can best be described as M&S's take on what Kim came up with. I like it a lot and think it will look very good on store shelves--assuming I’m lucky enough to get it faced rather than with just the spine showing. It's up in the Photo Gallery for anyone who wants to take a look. Most of my time this week was taken up by working out a more sophisticated design for this website. As mentioned on the home page, it's very much an on-going process and is requiring a pretty steep learning curve for me since designing for the Web is a lot different than designing for print! Next up is to do a new table of contents frame. I also want to have a bit of a soundtrack for some pages. Stay tuned...

November 25: Kim Kho's work on the cover has been sent to M&S. Her Photoshop tweaks to the shot we picked are brilliant, very moody and Wilbur and Leslie look great. They’re both very close to what I imagined these two pivotal characters looking like--which is why I was so eager to do the photos in the first place! The street Andre and I found is actually quite near where some of the action in the story takes place, too, so anyone buying the book will get an extra dose of reality. Now it’s up to Kong in the production department to see what he can do with it. Kim also did a cover treatment I quite like, but the decision is ultimately up to M&S's Marketing Department. I also spent this past Monday at M&S offices going over the copy-edits which was quite gruelling: a lot of concentration for a lot of hours. My editor, Pat, has a really good grip on what I’m trying to say, which is good, since I don't always say it the best way! Everyone down there is very nice and pleasant to work with and it was nice to put faces to names.

November 16: The photo shoot went very well, although the weather was quite cold. Wilbur when I first met him at our vet's was under a year, and my, has he grown! Fortunately, Leslie (our Kit stand-in) is tall, so Wilbur doesn't look as large as he is. He also was exceptionally well-behaved and actually stayed calm and focussed as he stood around. This was especially important since Andre had to shoot at a rather low shutter speed due to the light. Out of the two rolls of film shot, at least four of the shots are what we need. They will require a lot of work with Photoshop to get them to work properly, but we knew this from the outset. Kim and Kal (the talented graphic designers I work for during the day) are working on a design and the idea we've narrowed it down to should provide an exceptional cover. This is important since I don’t have the sort of reputation where someone will come into a book store asking for my latest! I need people who have never heard of me to pick up the book because the cover attracted them. Then some good cover copy will make them want to purchase the darn thing. After that, it's up to the quality of the writing. I took some shots of the photo shoot, and when they’re developed, they'll be put up on the website. Guess I'll have to design a photo gallery page...

November 7: We're hoping to shoot the photo for the cover of Shooting Straight in the Dark on Sunday. Andre (the photographer) figures that, since Kit's dog is a Newfoundland, we should shoot late in the day rather than just at night. He's worried that Wilbur (our Shadow stand-in) will come out looking like an enormous dog-shaped black hole in the finished photo. One other work-around Andre's come up with is to use some baby powder in Wilbur's fur to give him some more definition. Shooting with some available light and then trying under just the street light should give us something that will work. We'll have to rely on Photoshop to do the rest. I'm just hoping for decent weather. We can shoot in the rain as long as it's not bucketing, but snow would be a problem. Hopefully, all of this work and angst will result in something really good that can be useful to the folks in M&S's Production Department for the cover (this not being a usual thing for an author to get involved with). If not, there are always stock photos...

And that's as far back as it goes. If you haven't read the ongoing Blog, click HERE.

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