All posts by KCSivils

Science fiction and classic crime novels have long been favorites of author K.C. Sivils. The combination of film noir and science fiction in director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep into the masterful Harrison Ford vehicle Bladerunner encouraged him to consume as much of both genre’s as possible. A fan of past noir masters such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Sivils also enjoys the current generation of storytellers like Renee Pawlish and Alex P. Berg. Author of over twenty non-fiction books, including an Amazon Best Seller, Sivils has now ventured into the realm of fiction with his Inspector Thomas Sullivan series. Married to the former Lisa Green and the father of three children, Sivils is a dog lover and a fan of Classic Rock bands like The Rolling Stones and New Wave rockers The Cars.

THe Real Capital city

I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The local refineries, rail yards, and blues dives all serve as a bit of the inspiration for the mythical Capital City on Beta Prime. Drive to the southeast on I-10 and you’ll be in one of the oldest cities in  the United States and North America, New Orleans.

Baton Rouge may be the state capital of Louisiana, but New Orleans certainly sets the tone for the rest of the state when it comes to the state motto: Let The Good Times Roll!

Both cities are filled with historic buildings, New Orleans in particular. The food is great, the people are friendly, and if you love blues or jazz, then you’ve come to the right cities

While different culturally, the people of both towns like to work hard. Both are oil cities and have extensive refining complexes and shipping facilities

Inspiration for Capital City is also drawn from the film Blade Runner. Instead of rain and total darkness as found in Ridley Scott’s version of the future, Capital City is cold, windblown, and at times covered in snow and ice

The weather can be pleasant, well, at least sunny, in Capital City, but the dangerous blue fog is never far away

In terms of architecture the city ranges from modern, clean designs that are pleasing to the eye and are the domain of the wealthy and elite of Beta Prime. The working class live in neighborhoods built via prefab construction materials. The oldest neighborhoods, such as the one Sully and company live and work were often built using shipping containers, a practice used for construction in current times.

Construction on Beta Prime

It’s not pretty, but it’s fast and apparently fairly easy. In my vision of the future, the initial containers used to ship supplies and equipment to Beta Prime were at the end of their useful lifespan as shipping containers.

Construction using shipping containers

Rather than cut the containers up for scrap, they were used to serve as the basis for living quarters and retail areas. With a facade applied, nobody knows what the building materials were until upon closer examination from the inside of the building.

Not all buildings were built from containers. The large open eating area in Joe’s, which doubles for the night club seating at night, was built in a more traditional method, using different prefab construction methods.

I currently reside in Texas, in a suburb of Houston, another energy city with a wide variety of people, transportation facilities, architecture, and industry. My wife Lisa calls Houston a concrete nightmare. I don’t have to travel far for inspiration for my version of Capital City.

The city itself in most hardboiled noir stories can be viewed as a character. I hope as the series continues that readers who follow Sully and his adventures began to recognize Capital City as such, a unique character in its own right. One that plays an important role in the development of the story.

Who Is The Real Sully?

I’m not Sully. Really. I’m not even sure I would want to be Sully. I see parts of myself in Sully and we have some similar life experiences.

But I’m not Sully.

Before Sully ever descended the escalator at the Capital City Spaceport with gun in hand and blew away the perp holding a knife to the throat of the daughter of a wealthy crook named Spencer Devereaux I had a vision of who Sully was.

I knew what Sully looked like, what he liked, how he acted, and most important, how he thinks about life 500 years from now.

Sully is a mixture of some of my favorite tough guy characters from books and film. He’s tall like Clint Eastwood but bulkier. His attitude and penchant for violence as a solution to “certain problems” is not unlike one of Eastwood’s most famous characters, Inspector Harry Callahan, AKA “Dirty Harry.”

There’s a bit of Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in Sully as well. It would seem Sully just can’t help himself at times. Like Spade, Sully feels the need to poke at corrupt authorities and has a weakness for a woman in distress. Even when logic tells Sully to avoid female entanglements.

A man of few words, Sully is not as shallow as his emotional restraint would have one believe. Those the Inspector would call friends are few in number. But to those lucky few, Sully feels a deep sense of responsibility to protect and see to it they flourish as best as possible.

He’s a man with a conscience, who feels guilt over his failings as a man as well as his failures as a cop. Sully is not one who agrees with Tennyson’s quip “Tis better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all.” The Inspector feels loss with a depth and intensity that can scar a man’s soul.

A long suffering witness to the capacity for evil of both humanity and the individual, it is easy to understand Sully’s ambivalence towards such matters as faith and charity towards his fellow man. For this simple reason, God, who is not done with Sully yet, sends another flawed individual, Father Nathan, to be the thorn in Sully’s side when it comes to matters of faith and ethics.

Father Nathan, a man’s man like Sully, has suffered his share of tragedy and pain in life. In his efforts to make amends for his past, the priest makes Sully into a personal project of sorts. If nothing else, Father Nathan acts as Sully’s conscience at times.

Not much scares Sully.

Those few who know Sully well will tell you with certainty they know what does scare the Inspector. It’s more of a who than a what, though some would argue a clone is precisely that, a what.

Sully’s nightmare has long legs, long brown hair, big brown eyes, a slender but eye-catching figure, and while she stands a full foot shorter than Sully’s intimidating 6’6″ frame, Sarah can be every bit as frightening. A military grade clone with the maturity of a six year old child, Sarah has the looks of a mature woman. Even worse, she’s fully aware of the effects of her charms on men, even if Sarah doesn’t fully understand relationships.

The cybernetic eye and robot hand come from my fascination with the Terminator stories. It allows me a device to show Sully has suffered during his life, that life has harmed him, making him feel less than fully human.

Is there a future for the pair, for Sully and Sarah?

Who knows? Sully frightens Sarah as much as she worries and frightens him. The only difference is Sarah is willing to acknowledge the fact to herself. 

Gift a Book for Christmas! Help Other’s Discover Inspector Sullivan!

Amazon rankings are based on an algorithm. The lower your ranking, based on sales, the higher you turn up in the search results. As you can imagine, the higher a book is on the results, the more sales!

More sales result in even higher rankings. Better yet, consistent sales help the book retain it’s higher ranking.
What has this got to do with Christmas?

In an effort to increase exposure for my Inspector Thomas Sullivan novels, I’m willing to make less per sale now for the increased exposure. So for those who would like to send an inexpensive gift to a friend, the price on all of my Inspector Sullivan novels, Kindle editions, is just .99 cents. This sale can’t go on forever. The prices will all rise to their regular price on December 26th.

If you have friends who would enjoy reading any of the books in the series, please consider gifting a copy! Word of mouth is the absolute best form of marketing or advertising an author cans ask for.

Amazon makes it easy to gift Kindle books to other readers.

Gift a Thomas Sullivan Thriller

The screenshot above is from the purchase options from The Fractured Man’s product page. The “Buy for others” option is how you gift a book to someone.

Gift a copy of The Fractured Man

The above image shows the form that will appear once you click on the Buy for others button. You just fill it in and then click on the Place Your Order button.

The image above will appear to the left of the form you need to fill out to place your order once you click on the Buy for others button. This will allow you to see exactly what you are purchasing for your friend or family member.

The Inspector Thomas Sullivan Thriller Series Box Set: Hard Boiled Noir From The Future
The Inspector Thomas Sullivan Thriller Series Box Set: Hard Boiled Noir From The Future

All of my novels will be on sale for .99 cents until December 26th. The Box Set, which contains bonus material consisting of short stories and the first ten chapters of The Fractured Man, will also be on sale for $4.99.

Utopian Society, Human Nature, and Crime

My wife will readily tell anyone who asks that I can be a bit cynical about my fellow man. Truth be told, I will readily admit that fact as well.

There is a concept known as Disruptive Technology. To oversimplify it for this newsletter, the concept states at different periods in human history a new technology will be developed that has a far-reaching impact on humanity, disrupting the world as it was known at that time.

This disruption brings with it many positive changes. These can include improved quality of life, economic opportunity, new jobs, and other new forms of technology.

The disruption can also bring with it quite a few negative changes. To name a few, specific skill sets are made redundant, forever eliminating those jobs. Society can be drastically altered in ways not foreseen. Families can be ripped apart and lives devastated.

The new technology brings change, change that is disruptive to the way we live and work. That disruption is both good and bad.

Economically priced steel and steam power were the technologies that drove the Industrial Revolution. Undreamed of prosperity came about as did many new inventions that made life easier.

The Industrial Revolution saw a rush of humanity from the countryside to the urban areas to take advantage of the newly created jobs in the new factories. With this shift came the problems related to overcrowding in cities: crime, squalor, inadequate schools, and a host of other social and economic issues.

Factory produced goods created new jobs and revenue streams for many. For others, it eliminated jobs and only offered long hours at low wages in return for others.

As I type this newsletter, we are currently going through another period of Disruptive Technology. This time it is the Digital Age. The combination of personal computers, the internet, and digital technology are producing unimagined changes in society.

With the advent of the tech billionaires, we’ve all seen the problems the new technology has created. Are youth are addicted to their iPhones, Social Media, and seldom read like the youth of the past.

Social Media has its pluses. It also has quite a few minuses.

We now live in the age of trolls. Real, living, breathing trolls. They live on the internet.

Much of the political turmoil and upheaval nations around the world are experiencing are made possible and in part often caused by Social Media.

We seem to have forgotten the wise adage of if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. The internet allows us to unleash our inner troll in the safety of anonymity.

The champions of technology love to claim the latest and greatest technology will make humanity’s life better. That we can eliminate all the ills of the past. Technology will set us free from this or that.

Don’t get me wrong.

I like lots of new types of technology. I have an iPhone. I use the internet. I publish my books in both paperback and ebook format. The paperback does not exist until you order it and then it is printed using a technology called print-on-demand. This newsletter is digital and delivered by e-mail.

But I have to shake my head at those who claim this technology and that technology will set man free. From biblical times to the present day, man has shown he is a sinful, broken beast.

We would be far better served to try to learn from the mistakes of the past and determine effective ways to prevent the same cycle of behavior from repeating. Instead, we look to technology as a cure-all.

It’s not. If we want to clean up the mess known as humanity we have to do something about humanity’s broken nature.

Until we do that, not much is going to change.

There is no technology, no utopian social system, or philosophy that will create the perfect social order for mankind to exist together.

But people don’t want to hear that. I guess hope springs eternal for some.

As cynical as it sounds, I’m convinced man’s not going to change much in the future.

Just ask Sully. 500 years in the future mankind is committing the same sins, breaking the same laws, and possessed of the same flaws.

It’s this very aspect of human nature that creates the life experiences and examples of human behavior that led to the development of the crime noir genre.

At least one good thing has come from all of man’s failings!

An Innocent Man is Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

An Innocent Man, the latest installment in the Inspector Thomas Sullivan Thriller series, is available for pre-order on Amazon.

An Innocent Man

500 years in the future, technology has changed. Humanity has not.

One man’s fate lies in the hands of a team of corrupt prosecutors bent on making their prosecutorial mark for personal gain. Standing in the path of injustice is Inspector Thomas Sullivan and an acquaintance from the past.

Murder, political corruption, greed, and scandal combine for danger in Capital City on the frozen world of Beta Prime. At stake is a man’s life, the very souls of others, and the integrity of the entire Planetary Alliance’s justice system.

Join Sully and his team as they try to free An Innocent Man!

Writing the Hardboiled Detective – Where Did Sully Come From?

Unlike the nosy neighbor who snoops into everyone’s business or the ultra observant detective who knows endless amounts of minutia, the hardboiled detective doesn’t usually solve cases with nothing more than his wits. To be sure, sleuthing is involved, but unlike the aforementioned crime busters, the cynical detective is willing to get his hands dirty.

Less concerned with the law and more concerned with justice, the hardboiled detective doesn’t live in a cozy house or in an estate manor. The detective lives in the city, often in the underbelly where crime and violence are a part of daily life. He might frequent nice parts of town and often does when the sordid events of urban life pay visit to those less familiar with the pain these events bring with them.

Life has been the detective’s most valuable teacher. Events have taught the detective life is neither fair nor just and it most certainly has damaged him in profound ways. But life has not broken him and nor will it. He spends his days risking his life to bring justice to those who cannot find it any other way.

Unlike the puzzle-solving investigator of cozy mysteries and cerebral detective stories written the British style, the hardboiled detective lives life in a very real way. His haunts include dirty city streets where the lowly people live, dive bars, seedy hotels, and the industrial district. He knows people in low places as well as the upper crust of society. His acquaintances include bar keeps, prostitutes, petty criminals, and corrupt politicians. Friends are few in number and having them comes with a high price.

Writing hardboiled crime fiction, often known as crime noir, requires a different perspective than required to write other styles of mystery fiction. Violence is ugly. It knows no limitations, visiting the poor and the rich alike, shattering lives. This very ugliness is part of the appeal of hardboiled detective stories. The story is real life in all of its sordid ugliness.

In his essay, The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler writes at some length about writing mysteries and the differences the author must cope with when writing the hardboiled detective. The likes of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and the Continental Op are a different breed of man. So much so, Chandler felt it necessary to write about the qualities of such fictional men.

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks—that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in (Chandler).

My own Inspector Sullivan possesses many of the qualities Chandler believes to be essential in the hardboiled detective. It is unlikely, authors of such caliber as Chandler and Hammett could foresee things like a cybernetic eye and hand or crime on an alien planet. Nonetheless, Sully, were he an Earthbound detective, should fit easily into the cities where Spade and Marlowe practiced their craft.

It is good to have something to aim for. One of my own goals as an author is for my stories somehow to approach the quality of Hammett and Chandler, two of my literary heroes. For that to happen, Sully must bear some resemblance to Spade, Marlowe, and the Operative.

Chandler, Raymond. The Simple Art of Murder (Kindle Locations 262-276). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A Day At The Museum – The International Sherlock Holmes Exhibition

My wife and I spent the morning at the Museum of Natural Science in the Houston Museum District. We ponied up the money to see the International Sherlock Holmes Exhibition. It was worth every dime!

International Sherlock Holmes Exhibition Entrance

Upon entering the exhibit a member of the museum staff provides you with a small book to record clues you come across. Be forewarned should you visit the exhibit! The minute you set foot in the exhibit, “the game is afoot!”

Sherlock Holmes Exhibition Clue Book

The exhibit begins with some history about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his life and education, and of special importance, the medical professors who trained Doyle. Of particular interest is the photo of Dr. Joseph Bell, the man who taught Doyle how to practice the art of observation.

Dr. Joseph Bell

The display includes several of the original handwritten pages of the classic Holmes story The Hound of Baskervilles. Of the original 178 pages only 30+ pages still exist.

Original manuscript page of The Hound of Baskerville

Also on display is a copy of The Strand

The exhibit is filled with displays of artifacts depicting the forensic and scientific knowledge of the times. A trained medical doctor, Doyle was up to date on the latest discoveries and used them to great advantage in the telling of his stories.

The Strand Magazine

If you live in Houston and love detective stories, you’ll want to take in the exhibition. If not, you’ll want to visit the Exhibitions website for details of where the exhibition will appear next. In fact, I suggest visiting the website regardless. It’s filled with more interesting material for fans of the great detective!

Your Favorite Indie Author and Your Local Library

Libraries in general do not purchase books written by indie authors. They have their reasons and like many bureaucratic institutions are slow to change. With all the changes in technology and the decline in reading among younger citizens libraries truly have their hands full.

None of this stops indie authors from wanting to get their books into local libraries.

The sale of a single copy of a novel or non-fiction book is not really the goal for most indie authors. Exposure to readers is.

One of the biggest challenges facing all authors is being discovered by readers. Throw in factors like the author’s genre might be narrow, it is a first book, and the seven million or so new books published every year and you can start to grasp the challenge.

One of the best ways for indie authors to get a foot in the door with libraries is for local patrons who frequent the library to request copies of the author’s work to be added to the collection.

Almost all of the paperback copies of my Inspector Sullivan Series that have been sold have been a result of readers asking their local library to add the book(s) to the library’s collection.

If you enjoy the Inspector Sullivan books, please consider asking your local library to add them to the library’s collection.

In fact, if you have other indie authors you enjoy, do the same for that author. We all need to be discovered!

The City as a Character

Have you read a hard boiled detective story set in the countryside? Watched a classic crime noir film set in a rural area?

Probably not.

Crime noir stories are set in a city. Not just any city, a large, crowded, gritty city. It’s inhabitants range from the innocent to the most evil criminals an author can imagine.

Not just any city will do.

Most often the cities used in these stories are Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, and sometimes Chicago. Sometimes the city is fictional, often bearing no name.

A well written noir makes the come alive for the reader. So much so the city itself can seem to be one of the characters.

Capital City on Beta Prime is meant to be a character of sorts. It is a cold and inhospitable place, dangerous, dirty, and crowded.

It is also a diverse city. It’s humble beginnings were that of a mining colony using the shipping containers used to bring necessary supplies to the planet. In the better parts of town the architecture is modern and elegant. Suburbs for the middle class have sprouted up. Bad neighborhoods can be found adjacent to middle and working class areas.

Transportation is a mess. Just what you would expect from any large urban city. It ranges from individual hovercars to old fashioned but modern subways. Taxis can be found to take you anywhere.

What makes Capital City unique is the people. Spread throughout the millions who inhabit the futuristic city are characters who make the city what it is.

Joe Maynard for example. The proprietor of Joe’s Place, an Old Earth comfort food joint with great ambiance and music. A place to eat, relax, and do business, legal usually but not always.

There’s the crooked (bent) cop Markeson. A strange duck if you ask me. Markeson’s as bent as they come but he’s a skilled detective who periodically takes great offense to other criminals breaking the law in his city.

Weather makes a city unique. Chicago is the Windy City. It rains in San Francisco and the fog rolls in. Capital City is the frozen city. The fog in Capital City is a bit different though. When it’s a bluish green, evil lurks.

Everything necessary for a thriller can be found in Capital City. Transportation to get away, goods and property to steal or smuggle. Innocent people to be murdered and plenty of not so innocent people to do the killing. Corruption is everywhere and so are people who hate it. Most of all, there are plenty of people who just want to take care of their families and live their lives.

Capital City is also home to many who wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It is more than just the backdrop for a story. It’s integral to it.

Follow Author K.C. Sivils on Social Media For Readers

Social media can eat up a lot of time. There aren’t too many people who would disagree with that statement. Many avid readers who enjoy social media find it necessary to choose between reading and engaging with others via social media.

The solution?

Social media designed for avid readers!

There three easy methods to connect with other readers and favorite authors:

Goodreads
Amazon Author Central
BookBub Author

Goodreads is essentially Facebook for readers. Fans who open accounts on Goodreads are serious about reading. There are lot of cool features for the avid reader. Here’s a few:

1) Asking the author questions: Authors have to give their consent to participate in this feature so they tend to answer.

2) Updates on the author and upcoming new work: These come in the form of an e-mail. I know, another e-mail. Having said that, the subject line informs you the e-mail is an update from a favorite author. I open these.

3) Reading groups focused on specific topics or genres: I belong to a couple of these and they’re fun. One of the groups has a monthly group read of a book the group picks. You can participate in the discussion on line. Reading groups are also a way to discover new or obscure authors.

4) Book Giveaways: Goodreads runs book giveaways. You can win Kindle or paperback copies of books directly from the authors. I’ll be honest, some of the paperback copies are likely drop shipped directly from CreateSpace or IngramSpark (POD services). But some authors sign the copy for you and mail it directly to you.

Note: You don’t provide the author any of your information to enter the Giveaway. The author is notified by GoodReads when the Giveaway is over and provided contact information to the winners.

Each Giveaway has some restrictions and there are limits to the number of winners in each Giveaway.

5) Access to reviews: GoodReads users are all avid readers. Most of them at least rate the books they read and many write detailed reviews. I find the reviews and ratings to be more just and accurate than those I find on Amazon.

6) Friends that are readers: Like Facebook, you can have friends. GoodReads will communicate updates to you if desired about what your friends are reading. These are avid readers who love books. Not just reading books but discussing them as well.

If you love an obscure author or genre, here is a way to find like minded readers!

Unlike other forms of social media I actually enjoy the time I spend on GoodReads.

The pitch: Amazon owns GoodReads and it’s slowly becoming a way for authors to connect with and find new readers. The more followers authors have, the larger an audience they can reach.

How to follow an author: It’s easy. First you have to have a Goodreads account.

Goodreads author book listing
Author book listing

If you find an author you would like to follow, search for one of the author’s books. In the image above you’ll see the listing for my own The Predator and The Prey. Beneath the title of the book you will find the author’s name listed. Place your cursor on the author’s name and click.

Goodreads follow button
Follow Button

The gentleman depicted above is none other than the famous Ed McBain, author and creator of the 87th Precinct series of novels. Bellow the image you will see a button labeled “Follow Author.” Simply click on the button and you are now following that particular author.

Amazon Author Central is just as easy to join. You can click on the author’s name as it is listed beneath the book title. In addition to announcements and updates about the author’s books and new releases (Amazon wants to sell you books) you can keep track of all of the author’s blog posts without leaving the Amazon website.

How to follow K.C. Sivils on Amazon
How to follow K.C. Sivils on Amazon.

In the image above, you’ll notice beneath the small image of the book cover a caption asking you to follow the author of the book. Usually you’ll see a tiny image of the author and a button to click labeled +Follow. Just click on the button and Amazon does the rest. You’re following the author now.

BookBub is one of the most popular places for readers to find books and learn about deals on ebooks. Like Goodreads and Amazon, you’ll need an account.

Once you have opened an account and logged in, following an author is easy. You can use the search feature to look up an author. In the example bellow, I did a search for Rex Stout, the creator of the Nero Wolfe series.

Rex Stout BookBub

In the top right corner is the familiar Follow button. Click on it and you’re now following the author.

If you don’t know who the author is but love a particular book and want to either learn more about the author of follow the author, do a search for the book.

In the image below you’ll see the page for The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout. In the lower right corner of the image is the Follow button.

I am working to grow my list of followers on all three of these platforms. If you already have accounts with them, please take a minute and add me to the list of authors you follow.

If you don’t utilize any of the above three, consider creating a Goodreads account. As I said before, it’s social media for avid readers.