Thursday, November 16, 2006

Highlight Doolittle's
The Cleanup

Sean Doolittle has some new neighbors, but they’re kind of a shady bunch. He only has himself to blame. He invited them. Heck, he invented them. We will say this for them, while a few may be of questionable character, they all have one thing in common — they’re compelling.

Doolittle, an Omaha-based writer, has set his fourth published novel, The Cleanup, in his hometown.

“Honestly, after spending the amount of time with them that I did, they sort of feel like neighbors. I guess I live on a questionable street.” Doolittle said of his Cleanup characters.

This is the first time that Doolittle, whose previous books include Dirt, Burn and Rain Dogs, has set a novel in Omaha.

“Local readers will probably recognize real and loosely fictionalized locations all over town. The book ranges from midtown to the Old Market to the river, into the bluffs across the river and back, out to the west side, around the southeastern and northeastern police districts. There’s even a car chase on Saddle Creek Road,” Doolittle said.

The book takes place in the aftermath of a fictional October blizzard.

“The weather definitely complicates the plot” Doolittle said. “I really wanted this book to have an authentic, specific feel, like the story was happening in this part of the country as opposed to any other. I’m not sure how to quantify it with specific locations. It’s just a quality that’s woven into the basic fabric of life in one place versus another.

“I did a lot of general driving around, and I rode with the Omaha Police Department, and I did my usual poking around on the Internet for various tidbits. But this book is, now that I think about it, the first novel I’ve written wherein the main character is actually FROM the area where the story takes place. That probably says it all right there.”

The book follows Matthew Worth, a cop whose been busted down to patrolling a supermarket that’s been a recent victim of robberies. The Cleanup references something a little messier than spilt milk in aisle nine.

“A tender love story about a cop who hides a body to help a girl” is how Doolittle describes it.

Doolittle grew up in Nebraska graduating from Norris High School in Hallam. (The school was destroyed in a tornado in 2004, but has since been rebuilt.). He has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Doolittle credits several teachers for inspiring him to pursue a career as a writer.

“Three English teachers in particular: one in 5th grade (Ruby Russell), one in high school (Ed Baker, rest easy), and one in college (Gerald Shapiro),” Doolittle said. “The latter was the person who told me, in a way that made all the difference, that he saw in me the raw talent to make a go of it as a writer. But all of these people played some critical role or other in fostering my love of books and encouraging whatever raw knack they saw. I’m in debt to all of them.”

Doolittle published his first book, Dirt, through a small press, the now-defunct UglyTown of Los Angeles. UglyTown also published a hard cover version of his second book, Burn. Bantam Dell republished Burn and put out his third novel, Rain Dogs, before The Cleanup hit the shelves.

“I’m one of those stories you seem to hear more and more these days, a writer who started out in the indie press and moved to a larger New York publishing house,” Doolittle said.

“I think all writers, aspiring and veteran, would do well to accept what a large, inevitable role luck plays in any publishing career. Having said that, in my personally opinion, determination and doggedness and hard honest work remains the best way to place yourself in luck’s path.

“You'll find a lot of advice out there about how to "market" yourself. I say, keep your head down. Read everything you can. Work hard on improving your craft, and strive to grow. Keep writing. Thicken your skin and push yourself. Keep writing. Read some more. Read like a writer. Write some more. Write like a reader.

“And just keep doing all of those things. It’s a tough business—tough to break in, even tougher to stay. If you can be discouraged or turned away, you probably should be.

“If not. . .well, you don’t need my advice anyway.”

Doolittle is already hard at work on his next book, “a still-untitled suburban thriller about a college professor, a retired cop, and a shallow grave.”

He will be at Lee Booksellers in Lincoln, Saturday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. and at The Mystery Bookstore in Omaha, Saturday Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.

For more information on Doolittle and The Cleanup check out and

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Authors Harley Jane Kozak and Susan McBride at the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave.

Kozak: Polished Product

Helps Publishing Chances

MANHATTAN, KS — One has to empathize with Wollie Shelley. She just can’t find Mr. Right.

It’s no wonder. Author Harley Jane Kozak has Shelley, the protagonist in her first two books, attempting to navigate the dating scene in novels entitled Dating Dead Men and Dating is Murder.

Kozak, a graduate of Lincoln East High School, was on hand at the Great Manhattan (KS) Mystery Conclave, Nov. 3-5, to discuss a challenge that can be as daunting as finding Mr. or Ms Right — getting published.

Kozak, along with fellow authors Susan McBride (The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder) and Laura Durham (For Better or Hearse, Better Off Wed), hosted a discussion entitled “Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing But Were Afraid to Ask, Presented by the Book Babes, Who've Been There and Done That.” A polished manuscript is the biggest key, Kozak said.

“You might think ‘well, if they see that there is a lot of raw talent here, they’ll take me on.’ That’s actually not true,” she said. “People are so overwhelmed in the publishing world with unsolicited manuscripts. You have to send your absolute best.”

The publishing business is just that — a business, she said.

“In this publishing climate, it’s very rare to have someone who seriously edits your book. An editor’s job is not as it was in the olden days,” Kozak said. “They need to see a manuscript that they think can realistically make them money. You have to be prepared for that reality.”

Kozak, who has a long list of acting credits from soaps such as Guiding Light and Santa Barbara to feature films including Necessary Roughness, The Favor and Parenthood, has managed to conquer the book business as well. Her third novel, Dead Ex, is currently in the final stages of editing with her publisher, Doubleday. It is scheduled to be released around August 2007. In Dead Ex, Wollie is dating a correspondent on the fictional talk show SoapDirt. Kozak was able to tap into her experience on the soaps and spent some time on the set of General Hospital as well.

“It was really fun. That was the easy part because that’s the part I did not have to research except for going and spending a day on the set of General Hospital,” Kozak said. “It turns out I knew half the people at General Hospital cause they had done other soaps that I had done. It’s very small world.”

Kozak got some assistance with her research from readers of The Lipstick Chronicles , a blog to which she contributes.

“I thank at least a dozen of them in the acknowledgements,” she said. “When I finished the first draft I had this 15-page list of things I had to check out. People wrote in and said ‘I’ve got number seven for you.”

Marketing plans for Dead Ex are still hazy, but a trip to Lincoln for a book signing is almost a foregone conclusion.

“I’m sure I’ll come back to Nebraska just because I’m always looking for an excuse to come back to Nebraska,” she said. “It’s dear to my heart and I dearly love the bookstore (Lee Booksellers) there. I just have friends there that I always love to see.”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Terry Rodgers' Apotheosis of Pleasure. Used with permission.

Vectors, Apotheosis
Highlight Artists' Work
Remember when Dorothy went from the black and white of Kansas to the Technicolor of Oz?

Artist Terry Rodgers collaborated with Jim Zimmerman, an English professor at James Madison University, to produce Vectors of Desire through POD publisher iUniverse in September 2004. The book includes 50 black and white images of Rodgers’ major oil paintings.

In Vectors, produced at 7.5” x 9.25” as opposed to iUniverse’s standard 6” x 9” trim size, Rodgers’ paintings translate well to black and white and the larger format allows for a better presentation of the work. But much like classic black and white films should be presented in the original form; Rodgers’ work should be seen in color.

Rodgers’ paintings receive just that kind of treatment in Apotheosis of Pleasure, which will be available in December through Torch books of Amsterdam.

Apotheosis, which recently had a short write-up in Playboy, is a 112-page hardcover. In addition to 100 images of Rodgers' work, the book contains a short story, The Absent, by internationally best-selling French writer Alina Reyes.

Color and scale are an important part of Rodgers' work. The original of the image featured above is 96" x 144".

In a recent interview, Rodgers shared information on both Apotheosis of Pleasure and Vectors of Desire.

How did the Apotheosis of Pleasure book project come to pass? What role, if any, did the Vectors of Desire project that you did with Jim Zimmerman play in the evolution of the new book?
TR: Jim’s book took a first look at the work. It definitely created some interest. The time had come for a fairly comprehensive and full-color book of the paintings.

What will be the best way to get the book? Will it be available through and Do you know what the retail price will be?
TR: Initially, the book will be available through: and

The retail price will be 45 euro which is about $60.00.

What does the publication of the book signal for your career?
TR: It provides a terrific opportunity for people to see a great variety of my work.

What type of promotion will you be doing for the book?
TR: I won’t be promoting the book. I make paintings and there’s never enough time for that. I will leave the promotion to the publisher.

What kind of goals did you have for the Vectors of Desire book and what was you impression of that book and the publication process with iUniverse? Do you feel the work translates to black and white?
TR: Vectors of Desire provided an introduction to the work. I believe that was Jim Zimmerman’s goal. Jim hoped that people would visit my website where they could see the work in color. Color is very important to my paintings.

One of the central themes that many of the writers hit on is that, while there is a lot going on in your paintings the subjects are rarely if ever interacting with one another. Is that a valid observation and, if so, what does that communicate?
TR: It is something that I notice around me frequently. Do remember that these are paintings and not social science data. The paintings may be better read as metaphors than data. I am representing something about the difficultly many people have relating to others even when they seem to be interacting. Often their activities and exchanges/jokes/laughter are to disguise their loneliness and fear. As they may reveal the next morning.

Paris Hilton makes the occasional appearance in your work. What does her image represent in your work? Is she aware of your work and has she ever commented on it?
TR: Paris is a perfect example of someone envied by many, criticized by more and “known” by very few. An icon of desire and an enigma. She is both a private person and, in the minds of many, a fantasy/fiction. And so much of our contemporary “mind” is made up of highly-imagined desires – cars, clothes, enhanced bodies, perfection, sexy experiences, vacations. So Paris represents very well this confusing duality of self and image.

What kind of interest has the Playboy article generated in your work and the book?
TR: Everyone at the coffee shop I frequent knows my work now.

Visit Terry Rodgers' website at