Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Try Darkness by James Scott Bell

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Try Darkness

(Center Street - July 30, 2008)


James Scott Bell


JAMES SCOTT BELL is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He has also been the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.

The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles. His first Buchanan thriller, Try Dying, was released to high critical praise, while his book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today.


Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica’s, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancĂ©e and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the underrepresented from his “office” at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. With his new friends, the philosophizing Father Bob and basketball-playing Sister Mary Veritas, Buchanan has found a new family of sorts.

One of his first clients is a mysterious woman who arrives with her six-year-old daughter. They are being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest that Ty soon discovers is represented by his old law firm and his former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won’t back down. He’s going to fight for the woman’s rights.

But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.
The trail leads Buchanan through the sordid underbelly of the city and to the mansions and yachts of the rich and famous. No one is anxious to talk.

But somebody wants Buchanan to shut up. For good.

Now he must use every legal and physical edge he knows to keep himself and the girl alive.
Once again evoking the neo-noir setting of contemporary Los Angeles, Bell delivers another thriller where darkness falls and the suspense never rests.

If you would like to read chapters 1 & 2, go HERE

“Bell has created in Buchanan an appealing and series-worthy protagonist, and the tale equally balances action and drama, motion and emotion. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out the answers before an author reveals them are in for a surprise, too: Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists.”

“Engaging whodunit series kickoff . . . Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development.”
—Publishers Weekly

“James Scott Bell has written himself into a niche that traditionally has been reserved for the likes of Raymond Chandler.”
—Los Angeles Times

“A master of suspense.”
—Library Journal

“One of the best writers out there, bar none.”
—In the Library Review

Interview with Jim Bell:

Thank you, Jim, for joining us today on The Writer's Tool.

First, how did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?

I studied writing in college, even took a course from Raymond Carver. But I was told (and believed) that writing "can't be taught." And I couldn't plot to save my life. I thought that gift had been withheld from me. Years later, after a few twists and turns, I determined I had to write, no matter what. I set out to see if I could buck the odds and actually learn the craft. That was back in 1988 and I haven't stopped.

I did not expect to have so many books done in the last 10 years. I never felt rushed, though. I credit it to the best writing advice I ever got, which is to do a daily quota of words. I do it by the week now, and the discipline hasn't let me down.

How do you balance family life with writing?

I do most of my writing in the morning. When my kids were little, I'd always be up before the rest of the family, pounding away at the keyboard. It worked out nicely. There's never been a balance issue, except maybe when I have a killer deadline. Then I get cranky.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?

The first thing I do in the morning is devotional. It has to be, or everything else gets thrown off. That's been a discipline for years. It helps to have a CD library on the computer, too. Right now I'm going through the works of A. W. Tozer, one of my all time favorite writers, a little bit each day.

Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?

Wow. I've written two whole books on the subject . . . but I'll try to summarize.
[Margie: And they are very good! I highly recommend them: Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing, both published by Writer’s Digest Books. I strongly encourage my clients to get their own copies and study them.]

I have a file of ideas that I keep adding to. What ifs, stories from the paper, odd things that occur to me, character sketches, and much more. Every now and then I go through this and take the ones that interest me and develop them a little. Some of those I put on what I call my "front burner." Eventually, I have to choose the ones I really want to turn into a novel.

I do a lot of free form conceptualizing, but eventually lay out a skeleton, using my LOCK System (Lead, Objective, Confrontation, Knock Out). That has to be solid or I'm not ready to write.

When I do write, I keep to a quota. I don't do extensive revisions as I write. I revise the previous day's work, then continue. At 20,000 words or so, I do what I call a "step back," to make sure the story is solid. Then I go on to finish.

After a cooling period, I read a hard copy of the book like a reader, and use just a few shorthand jottings on the pages. Basically I follow the "ultimate revision checklist" I have in my revision book. Then comes the digging in and revising the manuscript before I send it to my editor.

What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?

Usually it's story logic. Have I justified everything? Are the characters making moves that are understandable? Does the plot make overall sense? Are the motivations right? That sort of thing.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?

I am working on the next Ty Buchanan book, Try Fear. And developing a stand-alone thriller after that. I wrote a screenplay for hire last year, and that was so much fun (returning to my screenwriting roots) that I'm working on spec suspense screenplay in my "spare" time.

Finally, would you discuss Try Darkness? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?

The research is pretty basic and simple: I drive around my city. I visit the locations and take pictures, and try to be as authentic as possible.

What gets Buchanan into this story is an indigent woman with a six-year-old daughter. She's been given the bum's rush at a downtown hotel, and Buchanan looks into it. Then she's murdered, leaving the daughter vulnerable. Buchanan takes her into his own protective custody, and with the help of the basketball playing nun, Sister Mary Veritas, tries to find out what happened. Leading, of course, to more trouble.

In Try Darkness we go from the lower depths of the transients near Skid Row, to the mansions and yachts of the uber wealthy. In L.A., you get this mix all over. By the way, if anyone's interested in why I write what I do, this essay appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News:

Thank you so much, Jim! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.

It's been my pleasure.

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