The Blog Hoppy Thingie

The Who’s A What Thing?

Let me explain.

The very talented Kristi Belcamino tagged me. She answered some questions because she got tagged. Once I do the same, I will tag another crime author. It’s a fun way to follow a thread around the Internet and learn about some great writers. Cool? OK, let’s go:

What are you working on?

I’ve just finished a round of revisions on my second Pete Fernandez novel, Down the Darkest Street. After that, I’m working on a science fiction short story for an anthology titled APOLLO’S DAUGHTERS, a comic script and another short story featuring Pete as a guest star – for a competition and potential anthology inclusion. Also have a few pitches percolating, too!

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a tough one that I’m not really sure how to answer. My book is set in Miami and features a down-on-his-luck journalist named Pete Fernandez stumbling through a case that drags him into the darkest corners of the Miami underworld. I think my familiarity with the setting and the fact that Pete isn’t an established PI or cop is different, as are his motivations, which are pretty selfish and muddled due to his self-destructive habits. But I think a reader or contemporary is the best judge of this!

Why do you write what you do?

Because I have to. The stories stick in my head and I have to put them on paper. I really wanted to write a novel that featured a protagonist that wasn’t fully formed right away. Someone who made a lot of mistakes and was severely flawed. Someone readers could relate to but also worry about. I also wanted it to be set in my hometown and tell stories about people I knew growing up, which I don’t think is how Miami is usually represented.

How does you writing process work?

It’s very assignment-based. I try to write in the evening after work and over the weekend. I outline and try to work through my structure while still allowing for flashes of inspiration or luck. I sit at my dining room table and try to zone out all the noise and background craziness that is the world so I can focus on the work. It’s a challenge, but exhilarating.

Now, as part of this Blog Hoppy Thingie, I have to tag someone else! I have chosen Mystery Writers of America – NY Chapter Presidente Richie Narvaez, who’s a great writer and good pal. Head on over to his site in a week for his answers!

Born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Nuyorican writer Richie Narvaez has had work published in Murdaland, Indian Country Noir, Long Island Noir, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, and You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens. His short story collection Roachkiller and Other Stories won the 2013 Spinetingler Award for Best Anthology/Short Story Collection. He is the current president of the New York chapter of the Mystery Writers of America.

A short, sharp talk with Paul D. Brazill

Paul D. Brazill – a great crime writer you should all be reading – was kind enough to interview me over at his site about SILENT CITY, writing in general and what’s coming up. Here’s a snippet. Click through to read the whole thing. Thanks, Paul!

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

A few short stories, revising and finishing up my second novel, Down the Darkest Street, and hopefully finishing a draft of my third Pete Fernandez book, Dangerous Ends. I have a few comic book projects that I can’t announce yet as well.

Continuing to Do Some Damage and a few audio hits

The Day Job made some big news recently. In case you missed it, go here.

With that in mind, I did three interviews that involve you listening to my voice – one for local Seattle radio, a guest spot at Comic Book Club Live last Tuesday and another for top comic news site COMIC VINE. They let me ramble for over an hour – thanks, guys! All three are mainly about comics and the Death of Archie, but Comic Book Club and Comic Vine both allowed to chat a bit about Silent City and Down the Darkest Street. So, check ‘em out!

Also, last week I posted my third Do Some Damage blog post. This one touched on reviews and how to deal with them – good and bad. It’s a lesson I haven’t fully embraced myself, so I figured readers and fellow writers might get something out of my experience:

The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten about reviews came from a writer friend a few months before Silent City came out. I asked her – how do you deal with bad reviews? “I don’t read them,” she said. “Good or bad.” I thought this was amazing. Mostly because I couldn’t imagine anyone giving her a bad review, but also because on some level it felt really liberating – here was a way to just excise all the anxiety, fear and anger that comes with any kind of commentary on the work. It’s perfect!

Conversing about Comics and SILENT CITY at Comic Book Resources/Robot 6

Been knee-deep in revisions the last few days, so this is going up a tad late. But, in case you missed it, I had the pleasure of chatting with my old friend Chris Arrant over at Robot 6, the daily news blog of top comic book news site Comic Book Resources. Check out that fancy header!

Some of the questions discuss my day job, but there’s plenty of Silent City discussion going on, too – including a tease for the second Pete Fernandez book, Down the Darkest Street:

There’s a definite arc to Pete’s story – the second book, Down the Darkest Street, is a much, well, darker book. It explores the difficulty one faces when trying to improve yourself and the gray areas of life – relationships, your past and desires. Basically, it’s not easy – and it’s sometimes a series of peaks and valleys. By the end of Silent City, not to give too much away, the reader is left with a smidgen of hope that Pete will be OK. That’s demolished in the first page of Down the Darkest Street, and it gets worse from there.

March readings! I did them! (Plus Largeheartedboy ‘Book Notes’ and contributing to Do Some Damage)

What a week!

In addition to the day job, things were pretty hectic in book-land, with three events – all of which I outlined right here.

Big thanks to MWA-NY, Boundless Tales Reading Series and Noir at the Bar NYC for inviting me to participate in these readings. I had a blast, got to chat with some great author friends – new and old, including Richie Narvaez, Todd Robinson, Jason Starr, Hilary Davidson, Bryon Quertermous, Tim O’Mara, Scott Adlerberg, Kimberly McCreightAnthony Rainone, Jeff SomersAlbert TucherGeorgia Clark, Mandy Kelso, Sara Lippmann, Leah Zibulsky, Dave White, Terrence McCauley and Sweta Srivastava Vikram  – and read from not only Silent City, but the next Pete Fernandez book, Down the Darkest Street, too!

Additionally, that Silent City playlist I mentioned not long ago was spotlighted at one of my favorite blogs, Largeheartedboy. Not only did they link to the Spotify soundtrack to Silent City, but they let me riff a bit on why I put certain songs on the list, and how music influenced the writing process. Check it out, and bookmark the blog – it’s a great read.

The relationship between music and Silent City is front and center, from the first page on. It kicks off with a Dylan quote from “Idiot Wind,” which a dear friend of mine had described as her favorite song lyric ever, and which really encapsulated what the book is about – that sense of anger, rejection and desolation we all feel at one point or another toward a former lover or life itself: “I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.”

In addition to all that, I’m excited to announce I’ve joined the amazing crime fiction writer group blog, Do Some Damage as a regular contributor. You can find my musings on the site every other Thursday. My first post – about the hunt for an agent – went up a few weeks ago. So, expect a new one this week! Thanks to the amazing Steve Weddle for bringing me onboard!

So, right. How do you query your book to agents? Good question – and one that has no single, right answer! At least that I know of.
I’ve only queried crime fiction, so that’s what I’ll speak to.
My experience with having an agent is limited. I had one a while back and we parted ways – nothing bad, just wasn’t working, it happens – and I currently have one. But my situation – like anyone else’s – is unique, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

March readings! I’m doing them

March is a crazy-busy month – in a good way. Not only do I get to celebrate the day of my birth (Beware the Ides of March!), but I’m also taking part in three great readings toward the latter half of the month. Here’s a rundown. I hope to see some of you there!

On Tuesday, 3/18, starting at 6:45pm at KGB Bar NYC, I’ll be joining some excellent authors for the latest installment of The Mystery Writers of America – New York Chapter’s reading series. The lineup includes: Scott Adlerberg, Edgar nominee Kimberly McCreight, Anthony Rainone, Kathleen Gernert Ryan, Jeff SomersAlbert Tucher, and Angela Zeman. The event is hosted by MWA-NY President Richie Narvaez. Did I mention it’s free? You can find more info on the readers at the KGB Bar site. Also, take a minute to learn more about the Mystery Writers of America, too, if you have the time.

On Thursday, March 20 at 8pm I’ll be reading pages from SILENT CITY as part of the Boundless Tales Reading Series at The Waltz-Astoria in, well, Astoria, Queens! The Waltz is a great little spot – good coffee, food and service. They’re also very welcoming to the creative community. This should be fun.

Last, but certainly not least, I am hugely honored to be included in the latest Noir at the Bar NYC reading on 3/23 at Shade Bar NYC from 6pm – 9pm. How cool is that promo poster Todd Robinson cooked up? The lineup for this one is killer, so do not miss it: Dave White, Hilary Davidson, Jason Starr, Terrence McCauley, Glenn G. Gray, Richie Narvaez, Todd Robinson and Tim O’Mara.

Hope to see you at one – or all – of these! Two is not an option. Actually, two would be pretty good. But shoot for three!

In which the author does a series of interviews

I haven’t had the chance to really get out there and talk SILENT CITY much until very recently, and – like these things tend to do – they all seem to have hit at once. I had the pleasure of interacting with some great writers who were willing to take the time to not only chat with me, but read my book and ask really wonderful questions. Here’s a quick roundup of the recent ones that have hit over the last week or so.

I spoke to Savas Abadsidis over at The Huffington Post – who very kindly called the book “a gritty murder mystery/detective story set in Miami among the ruins of the old guard media” - about how media is portrayed in SILENT CITY and what’s in store for Pete next:

How much of your own life informed this story?

I think your life informs everything you write — from an email to a thank you card. But this book in particular features a lot from my life, but isn’t autobiographical. I knew I wanted to write a story about someone who was not a refined and developed detective or private eye. I wanted to show the origin of the protagonist, and see how he went from a “regular” guy to someone that is much more than that. I wasn’t interested in writing about a fedora-wearing, whiskey-drinking, smooth operator who has to find a femme fatale’s missing sister. I think that’s been done to death and much better than I could ever do. When I first got into reading crime fiction, after powering through the classics like Chandler, MacDonald and Jim Thompson, a friend of mine handed me a copy of George Pelecanos’ A Firing Offense – and it all clicked for me after that.

 

I had a lot of fun talking to my pal Dan Malmon over at Crimespree Magazine about the book, comics, Archie and lots more. This interview was a long time coming and I’m really glad I had the chance to talk shop with Dan, who asked really thoughtful and engaging questions:

Dan: I’ve said before how SILENT CITY just teems with mood and atmosphere. Who do you count as your literary influences?

Alex: I lean toward crime fiction that is more about character, setting and mood. I’m a fan of a strong plot and a big reveal – I think a good surprise is rare and special. But I want to read about characters that seem real and aren’t invincible that live in places that are evolving and have their own quirks. So, it’s no surprise I love The Wire, and the many great crime writers that helped that show – mainly Pelecanos, Lehane and Price. I love characters that jump off the page, who have quirks that make you feel like you’re sitting across from them at a restaurant, so I gravitate to anything Megan Abbott or Sara Gran write. I think Gran’s Claire DeWitt books are amazing, and strike such a wonderful mood and create a world you just want to live in. James Ellroy was one of the first modern crime writers I read and I love everything he’s done – the way he portrays his city, his frightening characters and just the way he puts words together. His use of omission and the way he makes you pay attention are so subtle – and I know a lot of people find his more recent work difficult, but I think that’s good. But I think it’s fine to have to work for something – to read closely or go back and double-check a passage. It shows you’re engaged. And he’s the master of that. Lastly, I think if anyone wants to take a master’s course in PI fiction, they should buy a stack of Lawrence Block’s Scudder and Reed Farrel Coleman’s Prager books – because that’s all you need to know. Classics, both of them.

 

Author Kristi Belcamino is a great talent in her own right and has been hugely supportive of my work, so it was a treat to be able to visit her blog and talk about process and my influences, among other things:

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Read a lot. Write every day. Finish what you start. It’s easy to get enamored with the idea of being a writer – it happens to all of us, I think. But writing is about putting in the work and finishing things. Everyone says they have a novel in them or that they started one a few years back. But you have to finish one before it can be published!

 

Jochem Vandersteen runs a great crime fiction blog named SON OF SPADE and was one of the first reviewers that really “got” SILENT CITY – at least from my POV – and figured out my influences without me saying a word. This one was fun:

Q: What’s next for you and Pete? 
Next up is the second Pete Fernandez book, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, which I hope will be out relatively soon. It’s – believe it or not – a much darker story, and shows what I hope is a natural evolution for Pete, considering where we left him.

 

Last, but certainly not least, I got to chat with Lizzy over at LIZ LOVES BOOKS – another excellent book blog that leans toward crime fiction. She’s been very supportive of the book since it came out and I’m glad we finally had the chance to talk about not only SILENT CITY, but what’s on my “bucket list”:

Favourite author/comfort reading?

This is a tough question! I have so many “favorites” it’s nearly impossible to pick one. I find great comfort in reading a really well-crafted PI novel, so I tend to burn through those while on trips or away form home – like the Lawrence Block Scudder books or Reed Farrel Coleman’s Prager novels. I’ll read anything by the following writers: Daniel Woodrell, Don Winslow, Megan Abbott, Sara Gran, Greg Rucka, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman and James Ellroy.

This and that: SILENT CITY mentions and TRUE DETECTIVE

It’s been a little busy in the day job department, as some of you may know. Writing-wise, I’m deep into revisions for the second Pete Fernandez book, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, making it really nice to see that SILENT CITY is still on the radar, and getting some mentions!

Over at 13th Dimension – a great comic site you should all check out – my pal (and talented writer) Justin Gray name-checked SILENT CITY as part of the site’s regular “What I’m Reading” feature. And, I’m in great company – Chuck Wendig’s BLACKBIRDS also gets a plug.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jedidiah Ayres – writer of one of my favorite new books in recent memory, PECKERWOOD (go buy it!), mentioned SILENT CITY as one of the small press books on his radar. Thanks, sir!

If you follow me on Twitter, it’s no secret that I’ve become fairly obsessed with HBO’s True Detective. The show merits a post unto itself, but in the meantime I’ll talk about the music: one of my favorite elements is the excellent soundtrack T-Bone Burnett has put together (this Spotify playlist is the best compilation of the show’s songs I’ve found). This reminded me that I cobbled together a soundtrack for SILENT CITY timed to release. As I finish up DOWN THE DARKEST STREET I’ve been tinkering with something similar for that book, but it’s nowhere near ready to be shared. In the meantime, feel free to give the SC one a listen. Or do one better and watch True Detective – you won’t regret it.

In the “What I’m Reading” department: BIG MARIA by Johnny Shaw – a hardboiled story that features a group of down-on-their-luck losers trying to find a lost treasure that reminds me of early Don Winslow. I also powered through the first two Martin Beck books – ROSEANNA and THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE. Both were quick reads and extremely well done. Reading them felt a bit like dusting off a classic album –  Revolver or Let It Bleed, for example – for the first time. Truly essential. Also in the mix: THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen and the aforementioned BLACKBIRDS.

Triple-shot of SILENT CITY in the latest issue of CRIMESPREE MAGAZINE

I was ecstatic when CRIMESPREE MAGAZINE reviewed SILENT CITY on their website – and liked it. Reviewer Dan Malmon had this to say:

Alex Segura nails the mood his first time out with his debut novel, SILENT CITY. He takes the reader on a rough and tumble tour of his hometown of Miami, Florida. But hold on – this isn’t the Miami of USA Network’s Burn Notice. No one is cracking wise with a drink by the ocean; Segura’s Miami is haunted by a silent killer while our hero is haunted by his failures.

I was doubly honored to find the review also made it’s way into the print edition of the venerable crime magazine, with issue #54 – which also features an interview with one of my favorite authors, Lawrence Block, along with the usual dose of excellent content.

In addition to the great review, though, the issue also features an excerpt from SILENT CITY – the entire first chapter – in print. This is pretty cool because CRIMESPREE was actually Pete Fernandez’s first home, as my short story “Quarters for the Meter” made its debut there, in issue #44. You can find it as a “DVD extra” to the main novel if you buy a copy of SILENT CITY.

But that’s not all! The issue also features another great review of the book, this time from Bryan VanMeter – who’s an excellent crime writer in his own right. Bryan had some really nice things to say about the book, including likening SILENT CITY to Ellroy, which is the highest praise I can imagine:

Segura does for Miami what Ellroy does for L.A., turning our heads from the gleaming lights to the bodies beneath the streets. It is a dark tale with a dark hero that is impossible to turn away from.

Wonderful thoughts from two great critics and a sampling of the book – I can’t ask for more. I’m totally grateful to Jon and Ruth Jordan, Dan Malmon and Bryan VanMeter. Thanks for the kind words and support.

Did I mention the Lawrence Block interview? Because if that doesn’t entice you to pick up the new issue, I don’t know what will!

BLACK HEART MAGAZINE on SILENT CITY

Nice review from BLACK HEART MAGAZINE’s Kristen Valentine:

Tightly plotted, Silent City is a fast, compelling read, one set to an impeccable soundtrack. Segura clearly knows his way around a vinyl collection, deftly using music to set moods as well for characterization. Pete is a likeable protagonist–the fact that he’s an amateur detective gives him a kind of scrappy credibility as he bumbles along in the early stages of his investigation.