Omnimystery News is thrilled to welcome reality-based mystery author Mark W. Danielson, who introduces a new series character in Writer's Block (Night Shadows Press, October 2011 Trade Paperback and eBook editions).
Today Mark writes about a story within the story. And he's offering one of our readers the chance to win a terrific prize package that includes a signed copy of his new book (see photo and details below)!
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What began as a joke among my fellow authors soon evolved into a murder mystery targeting the publishing industry. I never planned to write this story, but Writer's Block was far easier to pen than its name implies. The tale begins when Fort Worth Homicide Detective Maxx Watts enters author/publisher Charlie CC Coulter's home and finds him face-down on his bloodied manuscript, cold to the touch. Watts is immediately drawn to a sharp-edged marble paperweight sitting on the desk. With a guillotine etched into its top and "Writer's Block" inscribed on its face, the paperweight was clearly intended as a pun. Watts discounted that until the gash on Coulter's head looked like it came from the paperweight. Since nothing had been stolen from the house and considering the quip on the block, it appeared likely that one of Coulter's own mystery authors may have been his killer. Few motives are greater than revenge.
In the real world, getting published can be an author's worst nightmare. For those hoping to be career writers, their fate hinges upon their agents and publishers, but even then, most will agree that success depends as much on luck as it does great scripting. Think of the odds stacked against JK Rowling who was living in her car when she wrote Harry Potter. Thankfully, someone discovered her special talent and brought her work to life, but even she would be the first to admit she won the writing lottery with all of her success.
Photo provided courtesy of
Mark W. Danielson
Through no fault of their own, most writers never become household names. And while literary agents are always seeking new faces, the fickle book business demands that publishers only sign authors they can sell. It also depends on what genre is hot at the time. If fantasy and chick lit is in vogue, then that's what gets published. If you write westerns, you're either ahead or behind your time.
Of course, it also helps if you're a celebrity. I call this The Smucker's Syndrome where if you managed to achieve fame, whatever you write must be good. Sadly, booming sales figures for bogus celebrity-authored books tend to support this mentality. In a business where fiction accounts for less than twenty percent of all books published, there is little room for unknown writers. As a result, many frustrated novelists have signed with publishers that are not necessarily on the level.
Most of the authors in Writer's Block signed with the Guillotine Press because they believed it paved the road to success. Their honeymoon ended quickly when their sales and royalties failed to meet their expectations. And when these authors began comparing notes, many felt duped by their publisher. But did one of these authors take it too far and kill CC Coulter like a character in their story? Did the person that gave Coulter the Writer's Block decide to use it as a weapon? That seemed a likely possibility until Watts learned it wasn't the blow to the head that killed Coulter, but rather something far worse and much more personal. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he was killed by his own words — the ones that lay buried within his bloodied manuscript — for his was a death that allowed his murderer to watch him die slowly. Another murder driven by vengeance.
Although Writer's Block contains references to things I have experienced first-hand, it is hardly autobiographical. I am not like Maxx, nor any other character in the story. Even during my military career I never killed anyone, so unless someone threatens me or my family, I have no intention of taking a life. However, each of my characters do contain elements of myself and people I have met over the years, and that's why this story was so easy to write. And the beauty in writing murderous fiction is if I don't like a character, I can bump them off and move on.
But fear not, Writer's Block is nothing like Rambo, First Blood. I write with humor not horror, and do so because humor plays such an important part in daily life. We're in trouble if we can't laugh at ourselves, thus so-called black humor is what gets Maxx and his partner Blaine Spartan through their day. The absurdity in dire situations keep mysteries fun.
I plan to keep Maxx and Blaine around for quite a while. The first sequel to Writer's Block is a ghost story based upon an actual haunting in Fort Worth's Scott Theater. The next one is a literally moving story where the shipping container holding a kidnapped airline crew vanishes, leaving the kidnappers and authorities equally mystified. Expect to see Spectral Gallows within the next year or two. Boxed In will follow.
Feel free to check out the chapter previews of any of my fast-moving books on my web site, MarkWDanielson.com, or at Amazon.com and BN.com. With e-book versions priced less than a restaurant Coke, they're simply irresistible.
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About Writer's Block:
Maxx Watts is no stranger to murder. As a Fort Worth homicide detective, he has smelled death often. But this murder was twisted. A dead publisher lying face-down on a bloodied manuscript, the marble paperweight beside him labeled "Writer's Block". All evidence points to The Guillotine Press authors, but determining which one is only the beginning for Watts.
In our review of Writer's Block, we called the book "an incredibly suspenseful crime novel with a well-developed cast of suspects that maintains its mystery until the very end."
For a chance to win a "Writer's Block Prize Package" that includes a signed copy of the book, an embellished organic cotton book tote, an amazing "morphing" mug, and a button with the guillotine image, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the Mark W. Danielson: Writer's Block contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (9391) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends 03/28/2012.)