William Manchee

Novelist

How I came to write Disillusioned, the 9th Stan Turner Mystery

Like Stan when I was young I was fascinated with politics and thought maybe that would be a career I would enjoy. So, I geared my studies in that direction and went to law school assuming that would be the best route into politics. It seemed to be working out well until I was drafted during the Vietnam War and ended up in the Marine Corps.

Accepting my fate, I reported for officer training school but soon learned a military career wasn't in the cards. On the second day of training I found myself in the hospital with a bleeding kidney. Whether it was a slip on the ice or an overzealous drill sergeant that put me out of commission is impossible to say, but either way my military service was ended in short order. The experience did, however, give me the inspiration for the first Stan Turner Mystery, Undaunted. 

This turn of events was disappointing to me because I thought a stellar military record was an essential ingredient for a career in politics. Of course, we know that's not true today, but back then I thought that it was. After being discharged from the Marine Corps I went to Dallas to continue my legal education at SMU. Still keenly interested in politics I got involved in the Republican Party. It was the minority party at the time and I soon found myself as County Chairman, not because I was a political star, but simply because I was a willing volunteer and had a little credibility because I was in law school. 

These next two years were an exciting adventure, but I soon learned that politics was a dirty business often fueled more by a selfish desire for power and wealth than concern for what was best for the people. More importantly, I learned that politics required a complete and total commitment of time, energy, and talent with nothing left over for friends and family. So, not being willing to make that kind of a sacrifice, I opted out of politics and concentrated on raising a family and building a legal career.

I don't know why I haven't written about law school earlier, but it never quite seemed like the right time until now. So, much of what you will read in Disillusioned, was inspired by actual people and events during this most interesting historical period. Although the story is pure fiction I believe you'll feel the flavor of the times and enjoy Stan's tumultous life as he struggles to right an injustice and finish law school despite many difficult distractions.

Why I Write in Different Genres

I'm often asked why after writing nine legal thrillers I suddenly turned to science fiction.

When I started writing I was a lawyer and I'd heard you should write about what you know, so it only seemed natural to write about the law. This also made sense since time was at a premium with practicing law full time and raising a big family. I didn't have a lot of time to do research, so writing mysteries and legal thrillers came easily and naturally.

But I'm not the kind of person who likes routine. I get bored easily and enjoy doing a variety of things. So, each of the first six volumes Stan Turner Mysteries had as much adventure, romance and political intrigue as they did mystery. But, even with this variety, after ten mysteries I was burnt out and needed something dramatically different. I'd always loved science fiction, but didn't know if I could write that genre since it required much more creativity and time consuming research.

In order test my abilities in the science fiction arena I decided to do a cross genre. This was Cactus Island where Stan is asked to defend a teenager who things he saw an alien spacecraft. In order to prove him innocent of negligent homicide, he had to prove alien life existed. This turned out so well, I continued the experiment with Act Normal. Act Normal turned out even better and even was written up in a feature article in Library Journal.

This was all I needed to give me the courage to start the Tarizon Trilogies. Writing science fiction is very different than writing mysteries and much more challenging, but I'm glad I took the plunge and plan to write more in this genre, but I'm not giving up mysteries. I just needed a break. Now that I'm almost done with the Tarizon Trilogies, my next project will be most likely be a mystery.

Top Ten Reviewers

Well its that time again. Time to send out galleys to the top ten reviewers and keep my fingers crossed...

Every year, four or five months prior to publication, authors or publishers go through a ritual of sending out galleys to the top reviewers. These are the ones who can make or break a new title. You know the ones, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the New York Times, Booklist, etc.  A review from one, whether good or bad, is critical to have any chance of a descent distribution.  A review from two or more will insure distribution to librairies and bookstores across the nation which is essiential for a book to be successful. 

Each year with the number of published authors skyrocketing, it gets harder and harder to snag one of these reviews. At least for those of us published by small presses. So, once again I'll go through this ritual and hope fate will smile upon me and at least one of these reviewers will pick up Tarizon: Civil War and give it a read.

Wish me luck. 

Disillusioned, A Stan Turner Mystery Vol 9 - July 2010

This is a short synopsis of the new Stan Turner Mystery coming out this summer.

After being discharged from the United States Marine Corps, Stan ends up in Dallas where he intends to finish law school. In the spring of 1976, while attending SMU, he is recruited into the Republican party, elected county chairman, and finds himself helping President Gerald Ford in his campaign against Jimmy Carter. The campaign is marred, however by an untimely FBI investigation into the financial dealings of a major party contributor, Brad Thornton. The investigation unleashes an avalanche of misfortune beginning with the alleged murder-suicide of Stan’s friend, Ron Shepard, his wife Cindy and their three children and culminating in the resignation of two republican candidates for the 67th District’s state representative seat. Stan, who can’t believe his best friend could have murdered his family, launches his own personal investigation to clear Rob’s name. When the investigation turns up new evidence that threatens members of a powerful Mexican drug cartel, Stan is kidnaped and taken to a secluded place called “the dump” where he is to be murdered and his body burned to prevent identification

The Planet Tarizon, Part 2

Millions died during the super volcanic eruptions, but many more died in the years following from the toxic gases that enshrouded the planet. In addition to the ill effects that these gases had on the people and plant life, the loss of ninety percent of the normal sunlight was just as devastating. Agricultural production plummeting and the death toll skyrocketed. To save the population that was dying off so quickly, the government began building huge domed cities within which they could filter the bad air and purify the water supply. Obviously, the construction of these great domes took time and, in the meantime, the people suffered. By the time the cities were protected by the great domes, the birth rate on Tarizon had fallen below the death rate, and the population of Tarizon began to shrink.

Not only was the population waning but most who were born after the great eruptions were mutants, some stronger and better adapted to Tarizon’s new environment, but most sickly and deformed such that they became a tremendous burden on the government. This problem created a great debate in the World Assembly. The Loyalists insisted these mutants were full citizens of Tarizon and must be cared for and protected. The Purists, however, argued they were an abomination, a drain on the precious resources fo the planet and should be eradicated. As long as the Loyalists remained in power, the mutants rights were protected but their growing numbers caused a rift in public opinion and the Purist’s solution began to gain favor. During this time a brilliant mutant named Threebeard emerged as the leader of the mutants and began to mold a strategy against the Purists and their policy of genocide.

The Seafolken, a race of humans that had adapted to life in the sea, were also a target of the Purists. They were independent, peace-loving, and rejected any governmental authority over them. The Loyalists believed they should be left alone and allowed to live in peace, but the Purists feared them and viewed them as an intolerable threat to their view of a world order, They often captured, tortured, and enslaved them, but for those who would not submit to slavery, they favored genocide.

Although the Seafolken preferred peace they were very strong, tenacious fighters and extremely difficult to kill on account of their thick green skin. In fact the Purists had to develop special weapons for use against the Seafolken as bullets and lasers were often ineffective. Seafolken also possessed telepathic abilities which allowed them to communicate with each other under water and over short distances. One in three also had some telekinetic abilities giving them an even greater advantage in battle.

Seafolken women, like the mermaids of Earth, had another weapon. Their sexual allure was so great few non-Seafolken males couldn’t resist them. The Seafolken women’s natural pheromones were diluted by the salt water in which they  spent so much of their time, so their bodies had to produce seven times more than the human female who lived on land in order  to attract the attention of their males. Once in the female Seafolken’s spell the human males were helpless to defend themselves.

After the super-volcanic eruptions and the Purists movement gained strength, Threebeard enlisted the support of the Seafolken against the Purists in the inevitable civil war that was about to engulf the planet. The Seafolken quickly formed military units, elected leaders, and readied themselves for a call to arms.

(To be continued...)

The Planet Tarizon, Part I

I am often asked why I decided to write the Tarizon Trilogy. Well, as vast as the universe is I've always believed that somewhere out there intelligent life must exist and it's just a matter of time before we have an encounter with aliens from another planet, if we haven't already. There's been a lot written on the subject, but nothing very satisfying to me, so I decided to write a plausable scenario for such an encounter. In this case I decided the encounter would be with humans from a sister planet that we never knew existed. In my scenario Earth and Tarizon were settled by humans from the mother planet Pharidon. Pharidon was overcrowded so settlors left to find new homes in other galaxies. One went to Tarizon and another to Earth. They brought with them plants and animals native to Tarizon in hopes they could survive in their new homeland. The settlers didn't fare too well on either planet and barely survived the harsh conditons they found, but a few did and eventually humankind flourished on both planets. Obviously, their histories and level of technological advancement were quite different. Tarizon was slightly advanced technologically when our story begins, but the planet has suffered ecologically from decades of nuclear wars.

This is when the holy man Sandee Brahn received a message from God that he must unite the warring nations of Tarizon into a single world government that could rule the planet in peace and allow its ecology to recover. After a great struggle Sandee Brahn was successful and the world's governments met in a World Assembly and ratified the Supreme Mandate that was to be the constitution for a new world order. At this time there were two main political parties represented in the World Assembly, the Loyalist and the Purists. The Loyalist were the majority party and were the architects of the Supreme Mandate which guaranteed equality for all life-forms, freedom of speech, the right to assemble among a myriad of other civil rights. The minority party was the Purists who believed that only human beings should be afforded civil rights. They believed in a strong centralized government and limited rights to citizens as they didn't believe the average citizen could manage their own affairs effectively. Central Authority was created as a compromise between the Loyalist and the Purists. It was a strong central government that often treaded on individual rights but worked well in these difficult times. For twenty years Tarizon flourished until the great volcanic eruptions and Tarizon was thrust into a decade of chaos.

(to be continued)

The Speech I Never Gave

A young man came up to me at a book signing yesterday and asked me if I was the man who wrote Plastic Gods. I acknowledged to him that I was and he told what a great book it was and how much he'd enjoyed it. My signing had beena little slow, so it lifted my spirits to find out my book had meant a lot to this young man. As I stood waiting for the next person to stroll by I thought about my own high school days decades earlier. Being second in my class at Buena High School I was asked to address my fellow graduates. At the time I was lacking in experience and the wisdom experience brings. I didn't really know what to say, so it turned out mediocre at best. I sighed, wishing I'd of known then what I knew now. Then I started to formulate in my mind what I would have said to my fellow classmates had that been the case.

Fellow seniors, I stand before you today to warn you of a great peril that you will face the moment you step out into the world on your own. It's a danger that will threaten your health, your happiness, your marriage and even your very freedom. The reason this risk is so dangerous is that it is perfectly legal. There are no laws to protect you, no warnings from family and friends, and you won't know that you are a victim until its too late.

What I'm warning you about today is the credit trap--the lure to buy now and pay later, to live above your means, to accumulate possessions of every sort that you don't need. It's an unfortunate fact of life that our economy is driven by credit and you will be expected to do your patriotic duty and help drive the economy forward. This pressure will be manifested by a deluge of credit card applications, offers of financing for new fancy cars, a barrage of advertising trying to lure you into buying expensive home, clothes, cosmetics, travel packages, you name it.

You won't feel any pain the first few years after you fall into the credit trap. You'll be enjoying everything you've purchased on credit. Minimum payments on credit cards are low and you can draw on your credit cards or credit line if you come up short. It won't be long though until you'll find yourself in serious trouble. Lets say you have $50,000 of family income. If you did a budget you'd discover that you were probably spending $70,000. That means you're going in debt at the rate of $20,000 per year plus interest.

Interest at first may be reasonable, but the first time you miss a payment it will be jacked up to 28% and every time you go over your limit or make a payment late you'll be charged outrageous fees in above this high interest rate. Soon, in addition to your car and house payment you'll have credit card debt exceeding your car and house payment combined. You'll live with this as long as you can, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, but eventually it will be too much and the only way out will be bankruptcy.

It's an established fact that financial stress is the leading cause of divorce. After a few years when creditors start to call, your credit goes in the dumpster, and it gets difficult to even pay basic bills, you'll start blaming your spouse, arguments will ensue, and love will turn to bare tolerance. It's very common for bankruptcy to be followed by divorce. Some law firms ofter a combination package, bankruptcy and divorce all for one low fee.
So, you've been warned. Don't fall into the credit trap. If you do, at best you'll lose your financial freedom and at worst you'll end up alone in the bankruptcy courts. Don't live above your means. The only credit you'll ever need is for a house, a car and perhaps your children's education. Pay cash for everything else.

Now here's my final piece of advice. If you follow it you'll never experience the tragedy I've just described. When you get your first job and go out on your own, prepare a budget and follow it no matter what. Change it whenever your income changes, and put in a budget item for savings. Ten percent is the amount you should save each month. Do this without fail and you'll preserve your financial freedom, greatly improve the chances of having a successful marriage and go a long way in insuring your future happiness and well being.

That's the message I wish I'd of given my fellow students back in 1969 or I wish someone would have given me. I fell into the credit trap just like millions of other American's have done over the years and suffered greatly on account of it. It's only been in the past few years that I've managed to escape and become debt free.

I wrote Plastic Gods as a way to communicate this message in a way that would be entertaining but still effective. The young man I met tonight wasn't the first person who's thanked me for Plastic Gods, but it felt good to know someone had benefited from my work.

 

My First Literary Agent

It was a year or so after I started writing that I discovered that you needed a good agent to get placed with a major publisher, so I began my search for an agent. I sent query letters to hundreds of agents asking them to look at my new book, In Search of A Virgin,and waited, and waited, and waited. Then several months later the rejections started coming in one by one until there were only a very few left unanswered. I was about to give up hope and on the verge of falling into a deep depression, when a big fat letter showed up from the Aardvark Literary Agency of Absarokee, Montana. The letter started out, Dear Mr. Manchee, I have read your most extraordinary book and would love to represent you. Now, you may wonder what a literary agent is doing way out here in Montana. Well, that's a good question and the answer is, with today's technology I can sit in my study overlooking the majestic Yellowstone Mountains and still be as close as a phone call or fax to all the big publishing houses in New York City. He went on to say that he had inherited the literary agency from his father who had taught him all the subtle nuances of the business.

Also contained in the envelope were testimonials from numerous other authors who the agency had supposedly represented in the past and a proposed contract. Well, after receiving 98 rejections I was, of course, elated that someone thought my novel was "Extraordinary," so I read the contract proposal eagerly. My spirits sank quickly when I read that he wanted $1800 to do some polishing of the novel and that it would take 1 year for him to get the polishing done.

Part of me said, "throw the letter in the trash," but another part of me said "well, maybe it does need work and this guy can get it in shape." After checking around, I found that editors often did charge $1,800 to edit a novel, so I started getting used to that idea, but there was no way in hell I could wait one year for it to get done. I'd go nuts. So, I wrote Mr. Broome back and told him I'd pay the money but he only six months to do the work. He agreed and I had an agent.

A few days later I sent him the manuscript and the money and waited. Six months later he still hadn't finished the job or presented the novel to a single publisher. So I wrote him a letter inquiring about his progress. He replied promptly and said he was so swamped with work that he hadn't quite finished yet, but he was close. Two months later I got the finished manuscript back in the mail. I read it eagerly and scratched my head, because I really couldn't see he had changed all that much. But I was too busy to compare, line by line, the old with the new so I told him to just get on with the submissions to publishers. He said he would. Well, months went by and I heard nothing so I called him this time. His secretary answered and put me through. He was cordial, positive and said he had sent a query letter out. I said, "One query letter?" He replied, "Yes, I usually submit a work to only one publisher at a time. I suggested that might be a slow way to do it, but he assured me that's the way his father had taught him and he'd been very successful.

About a year later I decided to go to the Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Assn Spring Trade Show in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. One reason I wanted to go there was for the opportunity to go visit the Sherwood Broome Literary agency. After the show was over my wife and I got in our car a started the 150 mile journey to Absarokee, Montana. The town didn't show up on the map, so I called Mr. Broome for directions. It was a long drive through rain and show. The snow was so bad at one point we weren't sure we were going to get through some of the high passes along the way. When we got to Columbus, Montana, I took highway 78 south to Absarokee and turned back west on a narrow mountain road that led up toward majestic Mt. Douglas. After traveling for thirty minutes I didn't see that road we were supposed to turn onto, so I stopped at a tavern and asked to use the phone. I got Mr. Broome on the line and he told me to keep on going another couple miles and stop at a gas station--he'd meet me there. By this time we were climbing higher and higher into the mountains. We kept driving and driving and thought we must have passed the gas station but kept on going. We were about to turn around when we spotted a gas station up ahead. When we pulled in, sure enough a smiling Mr. Broome was there to greet us.

He had a nice four wheel drive Jeep Cherokee and we followed down a dirt road. I was expecting to come up to a magnificent mountain lodge looking over Mt. Douglas, but instead he turned down a narrow gravel road that took us across a small stream. I held my breath as the water got deeper and deeper. Finally we pulled up over the riverbank and drove down into a trailer park. After following him a half-mile through the mobile homes we came upon a big doublewide with sign proudly mounted above the door that read. "Sherwood Broome Literary Agency."

Needless to say, The Sherwood Broome Agency never placed my novel. So, finding an agent itself isn't good enough, you need to find a "good and reputable" agent, and watch out for predators.