COLDWATER by TOM PITTS is out MAY 18, 2020

Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Punk Noir Magazine, Tom Pitts

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Synopsis: After a miscarriage, a young couple move from San Francisco to the Sacramento suburbs to restart their lives. When the vacant house across the street is taken over by who they think are squatters, they’re pulled into a battle neither of them
bargained for. The gang of unruly drug addicts who’ve infested their block have a dark and secret history that reaches beyond their neighborhood and all the way to the most powerful and wealthy men in California.

L.A. fixer Calper Dennings is sent by a private party to quell the trouble before it affects his employer. But before he can finish the job, he too is pulled into the violent dark world of a man with endless resources to destroy anyone around him.

You know those times when your reading slows down and you can’t find the right book to read next? Tom Pitts’s Coldwater was the book I needed to pull me out of those doldrums. I tore through it, gripped by every page. Simply put, Coldwater is a damn good book. A thoughtful and violent tale of bad luck and bad choices. I loved it.” —Johnny Shaw, author of Big Maria and Undocumented.

PRE-ORDER NOW!

Meet the Author: Tom Pitts is a Canadian/American author and screenwriter who received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive.

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A Floor Plan for Fiction (Using real settings for your canvas) by Tom Pitts

Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Mark Krajnak, post punk, punk, Punk Noir Magazine, Tom Pitts, Writing

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Setting aside the ongoing argument about whether art imitates life or life imitates art—because I think we can all agree there’s a simpatico relationship between the two—I’d like to talk for a moment about those times when art must imitate life. For pragmatic purposes, I believe there’re times when, as a writer, you have to lean on a non-fictional backdrop so you can build your fictional world.

The setting for my latest novel, 101, is a pot farm in Humboldt County in Northern California. Now, the jungles of Humboldt aren’t a place you can easily use Google maps to load your palate. And even if you try, it’s hard to fill in the minutiae; what kind of trees, plant life, and other details of flora and fauna.

I have some friends who’ve been in that business for a long time and I was able to go up the 101 and venture into the hills for a true taste of the grower’s life. So when it came time to write the book, I decided it’d be easiest to use the cabin where I stayed and the weed plots around it for the actual floor plan of the novel.

I’d done this before—as I’m sure many of you have—used an apartment I lived in or a house I stayed as the floor plan for fiction. It’s important for the author to really know the details, even if they aren’t revealed in the story. Just like knowing the whole backstory for a character can give shape and depth even if the character’s backstory isn’t revealed (or is cut.)

In 101, it was more than just the cabin’s floor plan, it was the whole side of a mountain. From the exit off the 101, up the winding dirt roads, to the tiny farm where I stayed, I used the whole thing. Now, I didn’t map out the roads, but the general feel for the bends, the look of the neighboring farms and fences, and which side the sun rose and set, were crucial elements in tattooing the setting on my brain. Once the picture is set in my own mind, I can paint the picture for the reader.

Of course the reader won’t see the same thing I see—that is, after all, the beauty of writing and reading—but the more complete that picture is in the author’s head, the easier it is to describe and communicate the action to the reader. And that’s what it’s about, not reproducing every little detail, but bringing the reader along with you on the story, the action.

At the end of 101, there’s a lot of activity that takes place at a biker’s house in the city of Alameda, right beside Oakland. For that I used the house of my pal, Alameda Mark. His house is an unusual place and doesn’t really fit in with the surrounding buildings, but I know it inside and out, so when a lot of action breaks out, you have a clear idea of where the bullets fly, what doors will swing in what direction.

This may seem kind of obvious, but when you really begin choreographing an action scene, it’s these small details that give it plausibility, thus authenticity. It’s one of those subtle things that support the action right under the story. I liken it to the drummer in a good band. You don’t always notice if the drummer is tight and right on time, but if he’s off, you definitely notice. It feels loose and it’s hard to get into. The song and the story.

Of course, it’s easy to invent a setting, and there’s plenty of imagined sets in 101, but I don’t know if the picture—that floor plan—is as clear to the reader as ones I borrowed from my life. The reader may not see the same tattered blue couch in my biker’s house in Alameda, maybe they’ll see a red couch. But if there’s a hallway with three bedrooms on the right and a bathroom at the end, the reader will know—especially if there’s someone hiding in that third bedroom with a .45 pointed at the door.

Here’s the thing about writing advice, it often seems obvious or simple. But like a lot of ideas we prescribe to, it’s important to be reminded of the basics. Whether it’s Buddhism or AA, knife throwing or knitting, it’s the practice of principals that keep you on track.

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Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. He is the author of AMERICAN STATIC, HUSTLE, and the novellas PIGGYBACK and KNUCKLEBALL.  His new novel, 101, is out now with Down & Out Books.

Author photo by Mark Krajnak.

 

Paul D. Brazill Interviews Tom Pitts

Noir, Paul D. Brazill, Punk Noir Magazine, Tom Pitts, Writing


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PDB: You latest book is called 101. What’s it all about?

In a nutshell, it’s set against the Northern California pot business on the cusp of legalization. A kid on the run from trouble in San Francisco goes to hide out there and brings a whole lot of trouble with him. There’s a wild array of characters who’re in on the chase and they race back down the 101, converging in Oakland to settle their scores.

PDB: How has pot legalisation changed life in America?

The worst is yet to come. So far, in California, all we’ve seen is more and more laws and regulations. They’re coming up with new ones every week. If it keeps up, the black market will be back in business. A lot of the laws seemed designed to cut out the little guy, the small-time grower who previously flourished. It takes a pile of money to get in on the legal side now, the kind of money that comes from corporations and tech and venture capitalists. Out on the street things are generally the same, except you can smell weed everywhere. No exaggeration.  Bars, malls, restaurants, billowing out of cars.

PDB:  What’s best, critical or commercial success?

Critical. No question. There’s the pragmatic in me that says take the money. But, the truth is, you create what you create. If it’s going to last, it’s got to be good. You don’t need millions of dollars to be happy. You know what’ll make you happy? Leaving behind something great. If a critical success is also a commercial success, then good for the creator. Pretty unlikely it’ll happen with one of my books though. But if you start off looking for commercial success, you’ll end up with something watered down and forgettable. This is what I learned from music. Forget about what the audience wants and just create. Then, if it’s good, it’ll resonate.

PDB: Do you judge a book by its cover?

You have to judge a book by its cover. You do it whether you want to or not. Are there exceptions? Of course there are and I don’t want to discuss them. The reality is, if you’re standing at the store, staring at shelf, it’s the cover that’s got to pull you in. That’s its job. The word-of-mouth, the oohing and awing over blurbs, sizzling sleeve description all come after.

PDB: Was Huey Lewis right, is it hip to be square?

Perhaps he was right. Out here in Silicon Valley we’re living a real-life revenge of the nerds.  I, unfortunately, was way too cool back then, so I’m now part of the ostracized, marginalized sect.  The calculus majors and computer labs kids are now running the world, so fire up your bong, stream your Netflix, and let go of the steering wheel. Someone else is in control.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

tom pittsFor me? My novel American Static just came out as an audiobook, it’s up there on Audible, Apple, and wherever else. 101 is out on November 5th, ask any bookstore to order it, or you can find it on line. I’ve got another book coming out in 2020 called Coldwater, but until then I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work. These babies don’t write themselves, you know.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He’s recently been called the underworld bard of the Bay.  He is the author of AMERICAN STATIC, HUSTLE, and the novellas PIGGYBACK and KNUCKLEBALL. His new novel, 101, will be released by Down & Out Books November 5th, 2018.