J.J.'s WritIng Blog


Creating a Novel

October 12, 2015

My next novel, Deviant Acts, is scheduled for release, November 14. At least I think it is. My publisher hasn't answered my email since I requested they send galleys of the book to well-known reviewers like, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Book Page. They may have sent them. I paid for the postage and the cost of the galleys, so I hope they did. I really don't expect to be reviewed by the big boys and girls, though I believe the book is written well enough and has a good enough story to consider a review. But then again, like all other authors, I'm in love with my writing. A natural progression for authors is that your first hate your writing, then you doubt it, and then you love it. The doubt it stage usually produces the best work. I wrote Deviant Acts when I was in my doubt it stage, but now I love it. I know. I'm as confused as you are.

 What is the origin of this book? How did it surface from the goo of my brain? When I sire a novel it usually comes from actual events I've experienced, or from current and historical events that others have experienced. In 1968, my brother Ed used to send me frightening, grotesque letters from Vietnam describing what he and the other soldiers were experiencing. He talked the hardships and dangers as well as the drugs and women. I knew they had to be true since, like my protagonist, Eddie stepped on a mine, though he did not come away unscathed as my character in Deviant Acts. Eddie, instead, spent what seemed like forever in a Tokyo hospital. Ironically, at the same time, he’d also send letters to my mother that were so uplifting you’d think he had been vacationing at a theme park. Anyway, I wanted to use his stories in the novel as well as other Vietnam War stories I had heard from friends, relatives and enemies. Thus began the tale of a Vietnam veteran loser, who by facing adversity, overcomes his foibles and bad habits to do the right thing. Here’s the blurb:

    Jackson Hurst, lives his nightmares with his eyes open. Only the heroin he’s been addicted to since Vietnam keeps the horror at bay. A poster child for losers, Jackson’s addiction has cost him his job, his girlfriend—and unless there’s a change soon—his life. That change comes in the form of the wicked Aunt Camille, a Vermont millionaire who desperately needs Jackson’s services to retrieve her twenty-year-old daughter, Cheryl, from kidnappers. Camille wants her back at any cost and she wants the kidnappers, who maimed her only daughter, murdered. Jackson could use the money—no, he desperately needs the money—but can he stay clean long enough to get her back? And, more importantly, can he kill again, despite the demons that haunt him from the war?

The book starts out in Charlotte and ends up in Vermont. I know little about Charlotte except I once visited it with my wife. Her grandparents lived in the old section of Charlotte, which was changing its demographics with considerable speed, the area morphing from the old Southern white to new Southern black. I tried to capture the feelings of her grandparents whose parents had lived there since the the Civil War. I was born in Vermont but left the area when I was ten. Still, I love to write of the place because of its odd characters and weird politics.

The plot of the book is simple. As I wrote above, Jackson’s evil Aunt Camille hires him to find and save her kidnapped daughter. Her reasoning for choosing her loser nephew is because she wants the kidnappers killed for cutting her daughter's ear off. Camille figures, who better to hire than a loser ex-veteran who was booted out of the Marines for his participation in a massacre of villagers. How he goes about the task of trying to save his cousin brings out some of the most interesting anecdotes and adventures in the book. I won't say too much, but you can guess the tone of the novel by the award I received at Dennis Lehane’s, Writers in Paradise workshop. I was given, “The Best Use of a Penis in a Book,” award. Quite an honor. I'm glad they didn't give me a trophy.

Silliness aside, Deviant Acts was also awarded an honorable mention from Sable magazine and was shortlisted in the Debut Dagger award. So it's not Hemingway, but it's not chopped liver, either. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy the book for its story and quick pace. Thanks ahead of time for reading the book.


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