If you want to write a novel, do it because you enjoy it, not because to you expect to get rich. Only the writers who make the bestseller lists make lots of money. There are one million new books published every year – 350,000 in the U.S. alone. These were a few of the messages conveyed by author Tom Crowley when he spoke at the Sunday, October 26 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC). Tom was there to introduce his second Matt Chance thriller, “Murder in the Slaughterhouse,” but a large part of his presentation focused on providing guidance to would-be authors in the audience.
Tom said that belonging to the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) has been a good experience for him, and that in preparation for this talk he downloaded a paper from the MWA site describing a 7-step approach to writing a novel.
Author Tom Crowley provides tips to PCEC members and guests on how to write novels; explaining some of his own preferences which work for him, but are usually not recommended or used by most writers.
Tom mentioned that to hold the attention of readers, authors need to create interesting characters. Developing a hero (or protagonist) is particularly challenging because a strong hero needs a strong anti-hero (i.e. evil force) to be credible. Tom said that in “Viper’s Tail,” his first mystery novel, the evil force was a South-East Asia mafia-type outfit; and that in “Murder in the Slaughterhouse,” it was an international terrorist organisation. Further, that it is also important to ensure that the readers will like your hero. He or she does not have to be perfect – in fact, should not be perfect – but does need to be sympathetic. Also, if you keep the same hero in each novel, you need to make sure he or she goes through some interesting transitions.
Member Pat Koester announces an upcoming overnight trip she is arranging for members and guests in early December. The trip to Nakhon Pathom Province will include a visit to Thailand’s oldest Chedi, Sanam Chandra Palace, Jesada Technik Museum, and a tour of a lotus farm.
In his novels, Tom said that he prefers to have a “pre-book” (which he also referred to as a “lead-in” or “preface”). For example, “Viper’s Tail” starts out with a chapter set in World War II before jumping into the present day. This is contrary to the advice most writers are given, Tom noted, which advice is to jump right into the main plot. But the pre-book works for him because he harkens back to the events of the pre-book in the rest of the novel.
Tom said that it is a good idea for writers to keep reading while they are writing, as long as they do so strategically – i.e. looking for material that will help them write the book they are working on. He said that too many writers have several half-finished books sitting around (or on their computers). It is important to concentrate on one and let the others go for now.
Tom advised budding writers to join a writers group. He mentioned that there is one in Pattaya and another one in Bangkok. Further, it is also useful for writers to take a class on writing or at least audit one – something anyone can do via the Internet these days.
Tom said that many authors self-publish, which he thought was fine, but that he prefers to have a publisher. Either way, he said, an author needs to do promotion. This is the hard part because while you are promoting you’re not writing. For promotional purposes, it is important to have a website, Tom explained, but it is even more important to use social media such as Facebook. Tom mentioned he has an author’s page on Facebook and that a recent promotion on that page resulted in more than 2,000 hits and many “likes.” These are people Tom wouldn’t normally be able to reach without social media.
MC Richard Silverberg presents the PCEC’s Certificate of Appreciation to author Tom Crowley while Tom holds up a copy of his latest Matt Chance novel, “Murder in the Slaughterhouse.”
Tom described “Murder in the Slaughterhouse” as an action adventure with an historical twist set in Thailand. Murder, sexual exploitation, designer drugs and an off-the-rails CIA station chief are all part of the mix. One customer reviewer on the Amazon.com website said that the book provides great insight on the Thai culture. Another reviewer said that the story is “set against the backdrop of a country that is as beautiful as the people are mysterious.”
Tom said that when he spoke to the PCEC two years ago about “Viper’s Tail,” he was asked questions about Viet Nam, where he served with the American forces during that war. An officer and rifle platoon leader, Tom was wounded and was decorated for his service. Tom said that he had lots of Viet Nam stories on his computer, but that an emotional block had been preventing him from writing about them. However, he said that the questions he fielded from PCEC members helped him overcome that block. He has now finished writing a novel set in Viet Nam. It is called “Shrapnel Wounds” and it will be the published in the coming months.
PCEC member John Lynham, organizer of the PCEC’s Writers Group, shows the two books “Vipers Tail” and “Murder in the Slaughterhouse” autographed by author Tom Crowley.
Murder in the Slaughterhouse is available in paperback through bookstores and on the websites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is also available as an e-book for the Kindle Reader; according to the publisher, Down and Out Books, other e-book platforms are forthcoming. Tom Crowley also wrote Bangkok Pool Blues, a non-fiction look at the counter culture of the pool world in Bangkok and its denizens. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tom divides his time between homes in Kensington, Maryland and Bangkok. You can visit his website at: http://www. tomcrowleybooks.com/index.html.
After Tom’s presentation, MC Richard Silverberg updated everyone on Club activities and upcoming events, then called on John Lynham to conduct the Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya. For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.