Welcome to the Dark Edge

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Dear Reader

An exciting new series of novellas and novels has just been launched that I want to tell you about. The series is titled The Dark Edge. The stories are a little sexier and a trifle edgier than we have previously published

The idea behind the series remains the same, however: to entertain you, the reader, keep you turning pages, and wondering what’s going to happen next.

To launch the series we have just published, as an eBook, The White Island. It’s a thriller, a mystery, a love story set against the backdrop of Ibiza, one of the world’s most exotic islands, located off the coast of Spain.

Here an international cast of shady characters gathers beneath the hot Mediterranean sun: a beautiful young woman being blackmailed; a multi-millionaire and his glamorous wife aboard a luxury yacht, on the run; a pair of quarreling CIA agents; an Iranian government official who may or may not be trying to buy parts for a nuclear device from the Russians; a crafty Mossad agent out to stop the sale.

I hope you’re intrigued enough to check out The White Island at Amazon. You can access the novella by clicking HERE. Or by clicking on the cover below.  If you prefer, The White Island soon will be available on Amazon in a print edition. I’ll be updating you as to its availability.

In the meantime, welcome to The White Island. It’s located in that mysterious place full of shadows and secrets known as The Dark Edge.

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SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A NOVEL…(And Who Doesn’t?)

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So you’re writing or thinking about writing a novel.

To put it mildly, you are not alone. The questions I’m asked most in the course of meeting hundreds of people promoting the Sanibel Sunset Detective mysteries have to do with the novel that appears to be bubbling in just about everyone.

Amazing. I would not have thought there were that many readers, let alone writers.

A great deal of this interest has to do with the revolution in technology and the new attitude it has produced. What used to be a highly restricted and difficult process has been democratized and opened up to everyone. Now you don’t have to interest a publisher in order to have your novel published. You can do it yourself—and hundreds, if not thousands, are doing just that, including large numbers of professional writers tired of banging their heads against the wall of traditional publishing.

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The rise of Amazon has certainly helped.  The scourge of traditional publishers, Amazon is the best thing that ever happened to authors. Now there exists a platform where everyone can sell their books to a worldwide audience. You get the same Amazon page to showcase your work as Stephen King or Nora Roberts. All you have to do is figure out how to sell your masterpiece, and Amazon will even help you do that.

What follows over the course of the next weeks and months is an attempt to address the questions and concerns I’ve heard expressed by fledgling authors. I should emphasize from the outset that these observations and suggestions are merely one writer’s point of view, drawn from sometimes painful personal publishing experiences.

I have been writing professionally since I was fifteen. Almost every day for the past five decades I have sat down to write something. I’ve written for newspapers and magazines. I’ve written scripts for television and movies. I’ve written nonfiction books and I’ve written novels.

Often I have been poorly paid, occasionally I have been extraordinarily well paid, and once in a while I haven’t been paid at all. None of it matters. Whatever the circumstances, I’ve just kept writing. It is what I do. It’s about the only thing I can do with any facility.

All along the fight has been to do it better, to keep learning, to keep trying to figure it out, not just by writing but also by talking to other writers, endeavoring (without great success I might add) to unlock their secrets. The writers include Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Tom Wolfe, Peter Maas, Theodore H. White, Margaret Lawrence, Pierre Berton, David Halberstam, Irving Stone, Harold Robbins, Mickey Spillane, Irving Wallace, Jerzy Kosinski, Leon Uris, William Goldman. To name a few.

I don’t profess to know more than anyone else, and certainly I have experienced as much failure as success. But I have learned a few lessons along the way that might be helpful to someone starting out. The great thing about the creative process is that there really are no rules; if you can make it work, then it works. The mysteries of creation resist discovery with a handy set of instructions.

So, with all that said, let’s get started.

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Write!
I’m often asked how you write a novel and the answer is dauntingly simple:

You write it.

There is no way of getting around that reality. At some point you must sit down and start writing.

“Writing is work,” says Margaret Atwood. “It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”

The good news is that it has never been easier to get your words, if not on paper, onto a computer screen. When I started, back in the dark ages, I thumped away on my trusty manual typewriter. If you made a mistake or decided you had headed down the wrong path, then you had to start over again, an arduous, often frustrating process not helped much by deciding to write in long hand, the only option of great writers from Tolstoy to Dickens.

There is controversy over whether the personal computer helps or hinders the writing process—John le Carré, for example, still writes his novels in long hand—but for the novice faced with the task of composing thousands of words and afraid those words might not be the right ones, technology is a godsend. You can make mistakes to your heart’s content and then correct them again and again with the click of a mouse.

Make yourself write at least page a day. At the end of a year you will have 365 pages—a novel!

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Once you have completed your word dump, you can see what you have and then edit and rewrite at your leisure, armed with the satisfaction that at least you have produced something.

Whether to outline a novel first is the subject of much discussion. In the days before computers, I would have said yes, by all means; the outline saved a lot of aggravation and hair pulling when working on a typewriter. But nowadays your first draft dumped into the computer can serve as an outline.

However, I do write a few general notes more or less laying out the beginnings of a plot so that there is some indication as to the plot and where I plan to move it.

Having done that, I take the journey as first reader, creating characters and plot twists as I go along. The writing becomes an adventure, an expedition deep into the unknown—cushioned by the failsafe of understanding that whatever you write not only can be changed but probably will be.

When I finish that journey, i.e. completer the novel, and look back, I realize only one thing: that everything I started out with, I ended up changing.

When you understand this, you are on your way to becoming a writer.

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 Ron Base talks about writing a novel at Milton Public Library, Wednesday, Jan. 25,  7 p.m.

Admission is free.

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Rogue One: Spinning On Bill Marshall’s Shoulders

Bill Marshall, employing the look of skepticism he adopted whenever I put my arm around him…

Recovering from the shock of his death, the image that keeps reoccurring was the night—the very late night— Bill Marshall, movie producer, Toronto International Film Festival co-founder, and (much) larger-than-life rogue warrior, lifted me up, hefted me across his shoulders, and spun me around.

This occurred during the wilder and woolier early days of the film festival when such shenanigans were not uncommon after a few of us retreated to the festival’s hospitality suite for an after-hours drink, and you could end up getting tossed around by one of the founders.

1297510088643_original1I used to watch Bill, somewhat enviously I must admit, holding court at what was then Club 22—the two-two, as the regulars called it—a darkened, somewhat elegant watering hole nestled inside Toronto’s Windsor Arms Hotel.

It was the place to see and be seen in the midst of the fleeting glitz of what was dubbed Hollywood North, when everyone seemed to be coming to Canada to make a movie. You could find Donald Sutherland at one of the tables, James Coburn huddled at another, Peter Fonda not far away.

But almost always you could find Bill Marshall at his corner banquette adjacent to the bar, seeming to dominate the room. He usually was seated with his friend Henk Van der Kolk, the writer Tom Hedley, and, on occasion, the lawyer, Dusty Cohl.

Back then he was known as a movie producer. He’d actually made a film people heard of, Outrageous, and as a result he seemed to be everywhere, momentarily the town’s highest profile producer.

There was something magnetic about him that drew everyone. The movers and the shakers, not to mention the stars, all stopped by Bill’s table for a handshake and a few wryly delivered words.

Bill often played with the establishment—he orchestrated three mayoral campaigns, and worked at city hall—but there was always an outlaw quality about him, a sense that he was outside it all, barely containing his disdain for the games the adults played, particularly when it came to the arcane and mostly impenetrable weirdness involved in the making of movies.

Those outlaw qualities were shared, at least to some extent, by his pals Henk and Dusty. They were all rogues in their way. But Bill was Rogue One.

Maybe these characters could get a movie made; it was a business of crazies after all. But no one in their right mind was ever going to let them loose to do something like start a film festival. Who would ever support a ridiculous idea like that?

Years later, after the festival was a well-established part of the Toronto cultural scene, and was on its way to becoming an international phenomenon, I would look at Bill and Henk and Dusty—all of whom were friends at that point—and shake my head considering the sheer audacity of what the rogues had pulled off.

But pull it off they did, and today the fact that they succeeded so well is part of much-repeated local lore. Bill took it all in stride, never getting too ruffled, viewing the landscape around him with a skeptical eye and a gruff, barely-contained sarcasm.

He never stopped working the room, hustling the next wildly envisioned dream. I would encounter him in the darnedest places. Jogging along Santa Monica Boulevard one morning when I was living in Los Angeles, there was Bill, sauntering toward me. I expressed surprise at seeing him; he acted as if the two of us had run into each other yesterday. Of course he was living in L.A. Where else would he be? Come to lunch. We can talk.

\When I drove to the address he had given me, I thought there was a mistake. Most of the Canadians I knew who had arrived in Los Angeles to reinvent themselves—myself included—occupied apartments, usually over the hill in the San Fernando Valley.

Not Bill Marshall.

Bill was holed up in the newcomer’s fantasy of Hollywood, a mansion in Beverly Hills, complete with a lake-size swimming pool Esther Williams would be at home in, featuring a pair of marble lions resting at either end. One half expected Jay Gatsby or Monroe Stahr from The Last Tycoon to stroll out and ask you if you’d like a drink before lunch.

Instead it was Bill pouring the wine and leading me into a vast dining room where he presided at the head of a long table. What he was doing in La La Land is anyone’s guess. Probably trying to make movies. Certainly that’s what we talked about into the afternoon. But then there was always this enigmatic quality to Bill, the holding of cards close to his chest, never giving too much away.

Out of the palm of his hand...

Out of the palm of his hand…

Years later, Bill and I more or less reconnected and I got to know his wife Sari Ruda. Bill still had not stopped. There was talk of producing more movies, and, oh yes, a film festival in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region that would combine film with the fine wines and dining to be found at the local wineries.

I couldn’t help thinking to myself, Yeah, sure, but what are the chances of that ever happening? I should have known better. The next thing, I was arriving at a party launching the Niagara Integrated Film Festival. The event was held in a historic old house outside of town, the rooms filled with the local establishment types Bill always seemed to be able to draw in.

He looked frail, but as soon as Sari introduced him, Bill had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Bill never gave a speech as such, he talked to a crowd, reasonable, witty, self-deprecating conversation that you might be able to resist, but could never help but admire.

The guests that night couldn’t resist. The Niagara Integrated Film Festival became a reality. One of the last times I saw Bill was on a sparkling summer evening at the Trius Winery. The festival was honoring the Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, an outdoor event that attracted the usual dignitaries, including the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Bill looked even frailer but once again rallied to chat up his audience, in his element but somehow removed from it at the same time. Listening to him, I marveled all over again at his perseverance, his unwillingness to give up, his quiet belief that the next hand was the winning hand, all he had to do was talk a few people around to his way of thinking.

So much had changed since the days when I used to glance enviously at that corner where Bill Marshall held court. There is no more Club 22, the hospitality suite at the film festival long ago closed down, and the festival itself has become so big and well-oiled that everyone involved pretty much behaves themselves.

But watching Bill do his thing at the Niagara Film Festival, he remained for me a touchstone of sorts, a reminder of earlier wilder days when, late at night, a fellow could get spun around on the shoulders of a delightful rogue, and life would go on forever.

Now the rogue is gone, his brightness vanished. The lights are dimmer.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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(Celebrity) Life Lessons from Carrie Fisher

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Princess Leia, aka the actress Carrie Fisher, was living in an apartment on Upper West Side New York when I came knocking.

This was not long after the Star Wars phenomenon had burst upon the world, catapulting Fisher into overnight stardom.

fisher-in-star-warsGeorge Lucas’s game-changing science fiction adventure featured Carrie in flowing white robes with hair done in funny-looking buns. Cute but weird. For me, she stood out more vividly in Shampoo, her first film appearance as Lee Grant’s precocious, smart-mouthed daughter seduced by Warren Beatty.

The young woman who answered the door was closer to that teenager than she was to Princess Leia—fresh-faced, knee-high-to-a-grasshopper cute, and entirely delightful.

The apartment she shared with actress Teri Garr (who had appeared in Young Frankenstein and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) was spare, the sort of digs, it struck me, inhabited by two singles named Carrie and Teri who had a lot more on their minds than home decorating.

We talked through the afternoon—Teri Garr sticking her head in every so often—a great deal of conversation around the unexpected celebrity fallout from Star Wars. Carrie chuckled about how she now found it difficult to walk down a Manhattan street without being swarmed by little girls wanting to meet Princess Leia.

She seemed to handle her sudden fame with a combination of amazement and wry good humor. After all, as she pointed out, she was no stranger to fame, being the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and movie icon Debbie Reynolds, performing on stage with her mother at the age of fifteen.

She remained close to her mom, she said, but picked her words much more carefully when it came to the subject of her father who notoriously had left America’s sweetheart in order to marry Elizabeth Taylor. She didn’t see much of Eddie, although she said she got along fine with Elizabeth Taylor.

As the afternoon lengthened into evening, I finally left the apartment on something of a high, having talked to a warm, highly intelligent, attractive young woman with the world at her feet, in control of her destiny.

My encounter with Carrie should have ended there. But it didn’t. I was writing about her for Cosmopolitan magazine, then under the iron hand of a very demanding Helen Gurley Brown. Ms. Brown, for whatever reason, decided she did not like the piece I turned in. Rewrites were ordered.

I sheepishly phoned Carrie and told her I needed more time. That was fine, she said cheerfully. We talked for another hour or so. There are worse ordeals in life, I decided, than spending more time with Carrie Fisher.

I rewrote the piece and submitted it. Still not good enough. Hugely embarrassed, I called her yet again. This time I got Teri Garr. Carrie was out, but she would call me back. Sure enough, that evening, Carrie was on the phone.

“Look, I’m really sorry about this,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “This is great. It’s like therapy.”

We talked some more, and then she spoke with my daughter Erin, one of those little girls who was enthralled with Princess Leia and thrilled to be actually talking to her. As we ended the call, she joked that she felt like she was becoming part of the family. I was beginning to feel the same way.

Finally, Cosmopolitan was happy enough with the piece to publish it, and I never again spoke to Carrie. However, I did see her one more time, from a distance, dancing on a stage with her then-husband Paul Simon at the end of a Simon and Garfunkel reunion concert.

Watching her, I remembered our interviews with great pleasure and thought again about her charmed life, now married to one of the world’s great singer-songwriters.

How wrong I was.

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The marriage to Simon lasted less than a year and the actress I thought I’d gotten to know so well, I did not know at all.

Over the years, Carrie’s battles with cocaine addiction, bipolar disorder, her difficulties with celebrity and being part of a celebrity family were well-chronicled by the lady herself in books, a movie (Postcards from the Edge), and a one-woman stage show (Wishful Drinking).

She grew adept at transforming the mess of her life into art infused with irony and wit, a sad, bittersweet saga so far removed from the young woman I encountered in that West Side apartment another lifetime ago, that I wondered at the depths of my gullibility.

Was the woman who appeared to have such control of her life and celebrity snorting coke and falling apart as soon as I left? During the time I talked to Carrie, she later admitted she was loading up on drugs like Percodan and LSD. Instead of someone in control of her life, I was actually present as she lost that control.

Carrie Fisher taught me a valuable lesson about the pitfalls of celebrity journalism; the person you are interviewing is unlikely to be that person at all. You are invariably getting a performance of sorts, the put-you-best-foot forward view that doesn’t have much to do with reality.

Still, I adored the version of Carrie Fisher I got way back then, the warm-hearted, generous, funny kid who took the time to help a writer in trouble, and who was so kind to my daughter. When I heard of her death the other day, that’s the version I clung to.

To hell with everything else.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM AN OLD FRIEND…

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GIVE ‘HEART’ FOR CHRISTMAS…

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Heart of the Sanibel Sunset Detective is available by clicking

HERE

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