Sunday, August 20, 2017

Read an Excerpt from The Walking Man

Thought I'd share a snippet of The Walking Man. To put it in context, Regina, the mom, is trying to track down her teenage sons. A killer is preying on people in the town. They've missed their curfew and she's grown worried.

The road out to the powerhouse sent a chill through her. Dark as a closet, there was trash strewn at the sides of the road. The road hadn’t been used on a regular basis since the power company was in operation back in the 50’s.
Every few years the town council had a meeting to discuss funding for demolishing the powerhouse. The cost, with asbestos and environmental cleanup, was always deemed too high. So it still stood.
Regina came to the weedy lot where employees once parked. Looking at the powerhouse, she reflected that if Dracula had designed a power plant, it would look like this. There were weird gargoyle-looking statues jutting from the upper stories. Lots of shadowy arches and ornate designs in the concrete. She thought the place dated back to the late 1800's.
The stacks were so high you had to crane your neck to see the very top. She wanted to get the boys and go home.
She pulled the Kia up to the edge of the lot. Beyond the lot was packed dirt. As she got out of the car, she saw their bikes lying on the ground. Regina ducked back in the Kia and grabbed a mini flashlight from the glove box.
After popping on the beam, she approached the bikes, stepping over broken glass and a used condom. She really needed to rethink giving them so much freedom.
“Tim! Brian! You here? You’re both in trouble!” she called.
No response.
Regina moved toward the entrance. Something went sploosh under her foot, the ground wet. She shined the beam on it.
Please don’t let that be blood.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Draft of Die Trying is Done

I finished up the draft of Die Trying, my 18th novel. It's around 52,000 words and ready for the proofreader. I'm also working on a horror novella called The Walking Man. Cover art for Die Trying below.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Novel Continues

The current draft of Die Trying is around 45,000 words. I'm guessing the final version will clock in between 50-60K words.

Writing this post while watching America's Got Talent with the family.

Got in a 15-minute kettlebell workout after dinner.

Currently reading: End of Watch by Stephen King

Also, I have an article with some writing tips up at the SFWA blog:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Why Expectations Are The Writer's Worst Enemy (And What To Do Instead)

Expectations: The Writer’s Worst Enemy

Next to not writing, expectations can be a writer’s worst enemy. If for no other reason than a writer has no control over expectations. What do I mean?

You’ve written a book, put it through its paces with revisions and editing, and now it’s ready for public consumption. Here’s how expectations can trip us up:

If you’re indie publishing it, expecting to sell hundreds (or more) copies in a day, week, or month.

Expecting a publisher to give you a large advance and tons of promotion.

If you’re submitting to an agent, expecting them to take you on and get a huge book deal.

Expecting all of your family and friends to be supportive of your writing dream.

After I sold my first novel to Pinnacle, a well-known agent took me on. I was excited. This was it. He negotiated my next two books with Pinnacle. After that, I was sure a deal with one of the big five (at the time) publishers awaited. I decided to switch genres and write a crime novel. The book just didn’t work, even after I cut the thing in half and revised the hell out of it. I was expecting the book to sell. Eventually, I parted ways with the agent and went indie.

Instead of focusing on what you expect in a writing career, look at what you can control. Set some measurable goals for yourself, such as:

  • Reading one book on writing craft a week
  • Reading two books per month in your genre and studying the author’s techniques
  • Writing X amount of words per day
  • Blogging a certain number of times per week
  • Sending out two short stories per month to different markets

There are tons of other goals you can set for yourself as a writer. Make these your focus, do the work, and results will come.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Read an Excerpt From Die Trying, My Latest Thriller

I thought I'd share a snipped of my work-in-progress, Die Trying.

John Regal is a man with the unique ability to spot dangerous people. They carry a dark aura around them. In this scene, a government agency seeking to study John sends an agent out to capture him.

Uncorrected copy from Die Trying
Copyright 2017 Anthony Izzo

He drove home and approached the house. The house was dark. He watched it for a moment, weary. Did someone move behind the front window? He had the gun.
He pulled into the driveway and got out. Went to the front door and opened it with his key. Darkness greeted him. He could’ve sworn he’d left a light on.
John flipped the switch. He smelled someone. Cigarettes. John didn’t smoke. He pulled out the Beretta, crept through the living room.
He passed through the dining room. As he entered the kitchen, he felt someone bearing down him. He turned and swung, fist smacking someone’s jaw. He stumbled across the kitchen.
When he turned, he saw a guy in shades and a leather jacket staring him down. John raised the gun. The guy was quick, did this thing where he turned the gun towards John and then it was in the guy’s hand.
Before they guy could level the gun, John threw a right, popped the man in the nose. The guy countered, swept John’s legs from under him and he hit the floor, head smacking the tile.
Looking up at the guy now, whose nose bled. The gun in his face.
“Don’t move or I’ll hurt you,” the man said.
“Nice shades. You know it’s nighttime.”
The guy kicked him in the ribs. John curled into a ball.
“Anything else to say?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Get up. Slowly,” the man said.
John got to his feet, a hot blade in his ribs.
“Outside. My truck’s on the street.”
John went first and the guy followed, the gun on John.
“Now we don’t want any neighbors seeing the gun. Just know I can pull it in a hurry.”
“Are you with the woman? The Indian one?”
“Don’t worry about that.”
That was a yes in John’s mind. “What do you want with me?”
“Shut up and stop talking.”
“You’re the bad people I was warned about,” John said.
“I’m the person that’s going to shoot you in the leg if you don’t move.”
“You won’t though.”
“Move. I can think of other ways to dish out pain. See.”
The chop caught him in the Adam’s apple. His windpipe seemed to seal off. He gasped, clutched his throat.
“That was just a tap,” the man said. “Now move.”
John moved along, wheezing and gagging. After a moment, his windpipe opened back up. He coughed again. Spat.
He saw the car roll past. Got a glimpse of the woman in the vehicle.
She spun the car around, gave it gas, and jumped the curb, coming right at them. John hit the deck, watched the car bear down on the man like a shark on a swimmer. The car launched him backwards, the gun catapulting through the air. His head smacked the ground.
John looked over at the car. The passenger’s side window rolled down.
“Don’t sit there looking pretty. Get in.”
John scooped up his Beretta. Lights came on in the houses across the street. Neighbors were going to be peeking out soon.
He flung open the door and threw himself in the car.
Allie spun it around and sped off.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Ten Writing Prompts to Ignite Your Stories

First lines in fiction are crucial for grabbing the reader. It helps to create a disturbance, or change in the character's situation. You want to start the story where nothing will be the same after the opening. I find it helps to keep a list of first lines, either in a notebook or a computer file.

Here are a few prompts/first lines to use as story starters:

Something moved in the woods.

The object, unidentifiable at first, floated to the surface of the water.

Your characters are exploring a long-abandoned building. The power suddenly comes on.

Your character awakens to find their spouse standing over them, a knife in hand.

"What's the craziest thing you'd do on a dare?"

A homeowner doing renovations finds a mysterious box when she busts open some drywall.

The storm was like nothing anyone had seen.

"He left last night. I haven't seen him since."

A motorist is pulled over by a policeman on a dark road. The driver realizes soon enough that the "cop" is not legitimate.

I swear I saw my father today. He's been dead for six years.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Keep the Police From Spoiling Your Plot

"Why didn't they just call the police?"

This question can sink your story. If you have characters in trouble and those story people could solve the problem with a quick call to the cops, you have a problem. 

Most of us, if put in mortal danger, will dial 9-1-1. Say you see a shady man in a hoodie and a mask coming up your front walkway. You'll probably lock the doors. Maybe grab a weapon. Certainly, you'll call the police. 

Characters are no different. The most logical step for an average character would be to call for help when danger comes knocking. We like our characters to struggle, fight, narrowly escape danger. If the police show up in your story and haul off the bad guys, where's the excitement in that?

Here are a few ways to force your characters to fend for themselves:

1. Isolate the characters. Set your story somewhere remote, such as the mountains or wilderness.

2. Delay the police. There could be a bad storm that washed out roads, or a massive blizzard. Make it hard for help to arrive. 

3. If you're writing crime or thrillers, maybe all your characters are criminals. Or perhaps your main character has gotten into some legal trouble.  Criminals are not going to go to the police. Give a logical reason that makes calling the police a bad idea.

4. Have the bad guys thwart the authorities. Maybe the police show up and the bad guys ambush them. 

5. Maybe the bad guys will harm a loved one if the police are involved (as in many kidnapping stories).

These are just a few possibilities. As writers, it's our job to keep tension high and squeeze excitement out of stories. Don't let the police show up and spoil the party.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Day's Writing 3/7/17

I got through Chapter Two of the next novel, tentatively titled "Die Trying."  Here's a snippet:

John Regal left the house with a sense of dread that afternoon. As he drove from his home in a quiet suburb of Buffalo and passed through downtown, he couldn’t shake the feeling. Twice he considered pulling his truck off the 190 expressway and turning around, but he chalked his feelings up to paranoia. 

My 19-year-old son and I are trying to complete Watchdogs 2. We're on the final mission. He and I play on the PS4 just about every night for an hour before bed. I really enjoy the time spent with him, and it gives me an excuse to sneak in some video game time, as well.

Currently reading Don Winslow's "The Life and Death of Bobby Z."

Also reading "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck" by Mark Manson. I'd read a few of his blog posts a while back and liked them. I borrowed the book from a co-worker. Normally I'm not big on motivational or self-help books, but I like what this one has to say so far. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Damage Factory Excerpt

Here's an excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Damage Factory.

What would you do if a secret criminal organization was hired to destroy your life? Three unsuspecting people tied together by a tragic event are about to find out.

From The Damage Factory. Copyright 2017 Anthony Izzo

Jason Matthews suspected he was being followed.
The black Range Rover had matched his lane shifts, hanging back just enough to seem inconspicuous. Jason hadn’t noticed it until he’d neared the grocery store. Was he being followed?
Fuck it. You’re being paranoid.
While he was on his way to Wegman’s, his phone had buzzed several times. He’d taken it out and saw a missed call from Erin.
He’d checked in with her a while ago, thinking he’d be home soon, but a two-car accident had slowed traffic and put him behind.
He’d have to call Erin when he got inside. Paige was likely getting an itchy remote finger and wanted to start the movie.
He turned into the Wegman’s parking lot and found a spot. Parked the car and got out. He scanned the lot but saw no sign of the Range Rover. He chalked it up to being paranoid.
It had been a few hours since he’d last gone to the bathroom, and his bladder felt heavy, the large Starbuck’s coffee he had earlier doing its job.
He headed inside, passing a display of tomatoes and ducking into the alcove that housed the restrooms.
He entered the men’s room, the scent of a flowery air freshener filling the air. The men’s room was empty. He stood at the urinal, unzipped, and sighed at the relief as his bladder emptied.
He’d call Erin when he was finished.
The door squealed open behind him. Someone said, “Get lost. Closing for maintenance.”
He finished urinating and zipped up. Thought about the potential client he’d met with earlier; they wanted him to write for their website and social media outlets. It would be a nice job. And steady. His freelance business was taking off, and between that and Erin’s pension, they were doing okay financially.
When he turned around, a man was standing and grinning at him. He was big in the chest and shoulders, stood slightly stooped over. He wore a gray sport coat, black slacks, and a crisp, white shirt.
Jason started forward. The guy stepped in front of him.
“Do you mind?” Jason said.
The guy grabbed a handful of Jason’s shirt and pulled him close. “Listen to me. There’s a razor-sharp knife pointed at your thigh. One slip and it will likely sever some sensitive parts.”
Jason’s heart kicked hard in his chest. Couldn’t believe this was happening. “Wallet’s in my back pocket.”
“I don’t give a fuck about your wallet. Now we only have a minute before someone comes strolling in. I already had to scare one asshole out of coming in here. I’m going to take a step back. If you yell, I’ll pull down your pants and start cutting. Got it?”
He didn’t doubt the man. He spoke with the true calm only a true psychopath would possess. Or so Jason imagined.
“We’re going to walk out together, just like the best of friends. And in case you’re getting ideas, think about what could happen to Erin and Paige, huh?”
“Son of a bitch,” Jason said. “How do you know about my family?”
“Easy. Let’s walk before someone else comes in,” the man said.
Like a magician doing slight-of-hand, he swapped the knife for a small, semiautomatic pistol. He slipped it in his front pocket and kept his hand on it. “Just so you know it’s here. Think about that family. Matter of fact, don’t stop thinking about them.”

As they left the alcove and passed the displays of tomatoes in the produce department, no one gave them a second glance. A bored teenager mopped the floor nearby.
A pretty, young woman was trying to corral a toddler, who was attempting to climb from the shopping cart.
When they exited, Jason looked up at the security monitor, hoping they would get his face on camera. Out in the parking lot, they climbed into the Range Rover, the guy instructing Jason to sit tight in the passenger’s seat.
The man climbed into the driver’s seat and pointed the semiautomatic at Jason across the console. He started up the Range Rover and pulled out of the spot, putting the gun back on Jason.
He thought of Erin and Paige, how he might not see them again. He did a mental checklist, trying to figure out if he knew his abductor. Came up blank. There was no reason anyone would want to kidnap him; they certainly weren’t rich.
“Don’t try anything. If you try and jump out, I’ll shoot you. The bullet will likely sever your spine.”
“You make it sound so tempting.”
The guy actually laughed at that, and Jason thought for a second about making a move, but instead he stayed rooted to the spot.

He did nothing, watching in the rearview mirror as the store diminished.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Damage Factory - Coming Soon

This is with my proofreader right now. Should be on sale within the next week or so. More to come.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Day's Writing 1/11/16

Got 1,120 words done this morning on the latest novel. I just crossed the 40K mark. I'm thinking it will clock in between 50-60K when I'm done. Looking to have it for sale in February.  There's a snippet of the first chapter below (not edited).

Going to head to the basement for a workout. I added a chin-up bar and some suspension straps to the workout gear. Got them for Christmas.

Currently reading Stephen White's Soft Target and Chuck Wendig's Invasive.

Chapter One

Don’t write anything down. Don’t tell anyone you talked to me. And for God’s sake, make sure no one follows you.
That’s what the rough-sounding voice on the phone had told him.
John George pulled up to the hulking warehouse, wondering if he should turn back, the man’s words echoing in his mind. He didn’t. Instead, he got out of the car and immediately smelled the dead fish odor coming off the lake.
He went to the passenger’s side, opened the door, and took out a bulky manila envelope.
As he approached a steel man door, he noticed a security camera mounted overhead. There was a doorbell mounted on the wall. He pressed it and heard a loud bell echo from somewhere in the warehouse. It reminded him of an old fire bell.
He waited, used to being patient. Used to being alone these days. In the evening he would heat himself up a frozen entrée, the French bread pizzas being his favorite. His expanding belly was proof of his love of frozen foods.
There was no need for large meals or extensive grocery lists.
Occasionally, he would eat Italian at Marcos, sticking with Chicken Parm and a glass of house red. It always felt to John that the waitresses were taking pity on him, calling him sweetie. He must’ve seemed like a sad case.
After dinner, he would return home and sift through photos on the computer, looking at their trips to Bar Harbor and The Outer Banks. More often than not, the night ended with him in tears.
The door swung open and a guy in a flannel, workboots, and paint-spattered jeans answered. He was half a head shorter than John but his neck was like a tree trunk. “You John?”
“That’s me.”
“Follow me,” the guy said.
John followed the man to small room at the rear of the warehouse. Inside was a table surrounded by wooden folding chairs.
“Take a seat,” the man said.
John pulled out a chair and sat down. The guy took a seat on the other side. “Are you sure about this?”
“Did I talk you on the phone?”
“Don’t worry who you talked to. Once we start things in motion, there’s no going back.”
“I’m sure.”
“Where’s the money?”
John slid the envelope across the table. As the man reached for it, his shirt hiked up and John saw a chrome .45 tucked in his belt.
“You can call me Rex,” the guy said, and dumped the bundles of cash on the table. He’d emptied out his 401K for the cash.
Rex did a quick count of the money. “All here. Good boy.”
“I’m not a dog,” John said.
“We’ll go over this again. Like on the phone. No cops. No news. We’ll contact you with updates. You turn on us? We turn on you. Here’s the last guy that tried it.”
He took two photos from his breast pocket and slid them across the table. John took a look, saw a headshot of a man lying on some sort of table. Most of the skin was removed from his face, leaving raw, red muscle exposed.
“That was done while he was alive,” Rex said.
“I won’t cross you. I want these people to suffer,” John said.
“They will. Believe me. It’s what we do.”
“How will I know when it starts?”
“We’ll contact you.”
John said, “I’ll need proof.”
“Let us worry about that. Someone will be in touch, like I said. However, if you have an emergency. If someone’s on to you, take this,” Rex said, and pulled a crème-colored business card from his pocket. He slid it across the table.
The Damage Factory was printed on it in small, black letters. Below that was a phone number, most likely a burner phone.
John put it in his wallet as if it were a sensitive explosive.

“Don’t fucking lose it. We’ll be in touch. And don’t worry, you came to the right place.”

Read an Excerpt from The Walking Man

Thought I'd share a snippet of The Walking Man. To put it in context, Regina, the mom, is trying to track down her teenage sons. A kille...