Friday, April 24, 2009
1. Imagine your audience naked. Or, if that fails, at least in underoos.
2. Autograph with a comfortable pen. Bic does not make a comfortable pen.
3. Come up with memorable witticisms to inscribe above your autograph, such as "You Made the Write Choice" or "It's Been a Thrill." Note: memorable is often mistaken for good. This, obviously, is a fallacy.
4. Be prepared for many photographs. Practice by making evil faces in the mirror. The more evil the face, the more likely it will end up on someone's blog. There is no such thing as bad publicity.
5. When you are asked where you get your ideas, tell them it's a secret. And act very, very serious when you say this. They will stop asking. As a bonus, this also reduces the number of photographs taken.
6. Some readers will point out grammatical and/or typographical errors in your novel. Smile at them and kindly ask them how many grammatical and/or typographical errors are in their published novel.
7. Have gifts for your audience, such as food and cash. Bribery can go a long, long way.
8. When giving your public reading, make sure to have a beverage handy, preferably something fermented.
9. People you have not seen in years will come up to you and ask for your signature and will expect you to remember their name. Be prepared to act so overwhelmed by all the excitement that you can't remember anything.
10. Writers are, by nature, loners, and the book launches are, by nature, maelstroms of social interaction. Overcome this obstacle by carrying a notepad with you. When the social interaction proves too cumbersome, retreat to your notepad. This can occur mid-conversation, and people will simply deem you quirky or eccentric.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
After Seth Harwood got his MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he began publishing in traditional magazines and journals, as most young writers do. But those publications were slow to launch his career. Things changed, however, once he started publishing online. And they really changed when he released his crime novel Jack Wakes Up as a free podcast (via iTunes, RSS Feed, & MP3) and distributed it through social networks. Web 2.0 broadened the reach of his work, attracted fans worldwide, and ultimately landed Harwood a nice book deal with Random House. (RH will be publishing Jack Wakes Up in print early next month). In the short video above, Harwood gives you a quick look inside the making of his podcast, and how it brings exposure to his work. If you’re an up-and-coming writer, there’s certainly something here to think about. You can find out more about Seth’s work at SethHarwood.com.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Print media is suffering. The New York Times ran an article yesterday entitled, In Boston, Paper's Peril Hits a Nerve. In order to survive, the Boston Globe needs to re-tool. The paper is projected to lose $85 million this year.
Right next to the Globe article, the Times printed News Without Newspapers. The story profiled the rise of "hyperlocals." These websites publish "news near you," articles about the neighborhood. Problems at the local diner. Items of interest if you're in the area.
Hyperlocal reporting can be spotty as bloggers move from one coffee shop to the next, laptops and digital cameras in tow. There's no quality control over the writing or content. Do we really care if somebody unearths an old cow bell in their basement? Hyperbolic I know, but you get the point. Niche sites, some venture capitalists believe, may be the next wave for garnering ad revenues.
The placement of these two articles—I measured half an inch between them—strikes me as darkly ironic. Twelve days ago the Times threatened to sell its stake in the Globe. It may shutter the Boston operation if no buyers show. Is the hyperlocal article a warning to Globe executives who, no doubt, read what their owners report?
See what happens if you're not profitable.
It's spring. We're a few games into the start of baseball season. The two articles conjure up the ultimate revenge fantasy. Yankees fans are still smarting from the 2004 playoffs, still feeling a dull ache from that unlikely rally by the Red Sox. Perhaps the layout in yesterday's Times was retribution.
Hey, Red Sox fans. Get your box scores from drunk bloggers camped out in the Fenway bleachers.
The potential failure of venerable publications, from the Boston Globe to the struggling Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is no laughing matter. We depend on seasoned reporters to ferret out information. They break stories, I like to think, in a responsible and professional manner.
How can we transfer knowledge if we can't pay people to unearth it?
The Internet is the most powerful delivery system in the history of mankind. It accelerates the flow of information into our homes. Never before has there been such a powerful carriage of knowledge.
The impact on reliability, however, has been less spectacular. It's still expensive to research and write stories. One school of Internet thought argues we are all reporters. We watch events around us. We break stories that keep the world honest and informed—Twitter style. I don't buy it. You know what they say.
You get what you pay for.
Consider our financial news. I've been following Bernie Madoff, Swiss Banks, and financial scandals on my blog: www.acrimoney.com. I appreciate reporters. They spend their days on the front lines, researching and writing as only they can. The last I checked, for example, it's a career-limiting gesture to blog about your employers. In the absence of professionals, I fear the Internet will become the world's most powerful vehicle for delivering...well...garbage.
Last I checked, we pay to haul rubbish away.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Here's a link to the story: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/83107-curzon-group-attacks-us-thrillers.html
And here's a link to their website: www.greatbritishthriller.com Note the jingoistic quote from Jeffrey Archer on the first page. Hmmm, Jeffrey Archer accusing others of churning out cookie cutter bestsellers....
They name-check James Patterson, John Grisham and Dan Brown as three of the main culprits when it comes to adhering to a rigid formula. By the way, if anyone actually has that secret formula, please email me.
I'll come clean and confess that I find the intellectual snobbery which surrounds the work of these writers, well, boring. As I do the snobbery towards the genre from 'literary' writers. Brown, Grisham and Patterson are consummate storytellers. Reaching a mass audience as they do is a rare ability. Archer has it too incidentally.
I'll also confess to the fact that while there are a number of British thriller writers I absolutely love, such as Simon Kernick, Zoe Sharp, and of course the Godfather himself, Lee Child, I read way more American writers than I do Brits.
Debate is healthy, this is a great bit of publicity for the three writers involved, but to suggest that there is some kind of cultural discrimination going on...gimme a freakin' break.
Sean Black's debut novel Lockdown is published on July 30th, 2009.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Today, of course, spell checker is only a little of what writers get from writing programs. There is auto correct, a favorite of mine, since my mind often works far ahead of my fingers, and I am always transposing letters. I have many words, like because, in auto correct. For whatever reason, when I am going along at a good pace, I spell because “becuase.” No rhyme or reason, it usually comes out that way, but with auto correct, the computer fixes it. That’s a major saver when I click on spell check.
Good things in life have a tendency to turn bad and it’s usually because of the involvement of humans. Take nuclear power. If that were all it was, our power bills would be low, our skies would be clean, and maybe global warming would never have happened. However, some genius figured a way to make a world-destroying weapon using nuclear waste . . .
I am not sure which came first, the weapon idea or the power idea, but you get my point. Now, you want to know how this connects to computers, right?
Following the computer came the Internet. Wow! Research at your fingertips. I was a reporter in Boston and when you needed information, if it wasn’t in the paper’s morgue, you went to the library or the source. Image that, walking the streets of Boston in rain or cold or summer humidity to work on a story.
Not today, all any reporter has to do is Google and all that research is there for them, in the air-conditioned comfort of the city room.
That’s a bad thing. It has taken the human contact I had as a reporter out of the process and in journalism, the human contact is very important. In addition, it makes journalists lazy.
Nevertheless, I do admit, for research as a mystery writer, Google is a benefit. I am fortunate to have friends and contacts in military intelligence, and the local police force, as well as the national weather service. These personal contacts have been of more concrete help in my writing than if I only had Google.
Now we enter the millennium and humans are still at work screwing up good things.
To a writer, time is everything. Time to write, edit, think, read. I would guess that most writers would argue in favor of a 30-hour day, not a 24-hour day. And, of course, 30-hours wouldn’t be enough.
Writing can be lonely. You open the day by staring at blank computer screen and you have to get what’s in your head onto it. Sounds easy, but ask anyone that has tried it. Writers, and I am generalizing here, are great procrastinators. We don’t need to be offered more ways to put off writing. We need more incentives to sit down and write.
A little more than a year ago, a writer friend knew I was promoting my book, Chasin’ the Wind, and suggested I get on FaceBook. I did and it was great for my procrastination process. Then another writer friend sent me another site and soon I had a list of sites and blogs I HAD TO READ.
Here is where a good thing has gone bad.
My usually schedule was to get up at 6 a.m., make my café con leche and write until 9 a.m., or, on a good day, until noon. Then I would have lunch and read into the early afternoon and somewhere, if possible, I would watch the taped edition Morning Joe.
Now, I have never sat from six to nine or noon without getting up. I get another café con leche, I listen to CNN while pondering some dialogue I want to get right, or try to figure out how to get my character out of a situation, realistically, that I have put him or her in. Sometime I face the blank page and panic because I fear writer’s block.
But, eventually, I get my time in. My word count (I note it each day) maybe only a couple of hundred words, or a thousand. I also edit as I write. So, if stuck on something, I will often go back and reread and edit.
What I found myself doing, after my friend turned me onto FaceBook, was checking my emails at 6 a.m., answering my FaceBook friends and then going to the blogs I HAD TO READ. It is amazing how fast three-hours can fly by when you are on the Internet. Also, I find those three-hours are mentally exhausting and that hurts my writing.
I cannot change the Internet, but I can control that section on my computer. I do check my emails at 6 a.m. because I have family around the country and it is how we communicate (though I would rather use the phone). However, I do not answer emails from FaceBook until late afternoon or early evening, and I have cut many of the blogs out that I HAD TO READ. I must admit to enjoying Crime Always Pays and Criminal Brief daily. I also check other writers’ blogs, but no longer daily.
You cannot afford to waste time and the clutter on the Internet steals your time, especially if you are a writer. The computer is a great thing and the Internet is amazing, just don’t let it takeover your life.
Friday, April 17, 2009
As much as I love amazon.com (with the exception of this past weekend), Borders, and Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores remain the premier forum for independent publishers (such as Nuclear Winter Wonderland's publisher Kunati) and need our support, now more than ever given the current economic morass.
My favorite bookstore when I was growing up was a small shop called A Novel Place. The owners had incredible taste and introduced me to authors I would never have found on my own wandering Barnes & Noble. The owners (a father and son) truly loved books, and I owe much of my adolescent reading list to them.
And then they closed.
Don't take your local independent retailer for granted. Buy indie on May 1st. Buy indie as often as you can. And if the book you buy at that independent bookstore happens to be mine...well, there's nothing wrong with that, is there?
And then there are those few like Susan and Paul who challenge the stereotypes and take the risks that break them free of the ordinary at a level that's positively inspiring.
Let the Shadows Fall Behind You by Kathy-Diane Leveille peels away the layers behind a murder, the need to deceive, to hide the past and cover it up with a pattern of respectability despite a trail of ruined lives and festering questions that could destroy the future.
A young woman returns to a small East Coast town to attend a reunion. Her instincts warn her against it as her lover has disappeared without a trace…
A gentle pace with compassionately descriptive writing is the right vehicle for author, Leveille, to tell a story of relationships that unravel as old, uncertain conflicts surface and begin to agonizingly make sense to the young woman.
A murder, a past still preying upon the souls of those involved, is always an unwelcome and intrusive guest. Let the Shadows Fall Behind You tells that chronicle with poignancy, wistful descriptions of small town life and punchy characterizations that expose hard truths.
Sadly rich and beautiful writing.
Author of LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU (Kunati Books)
Running on a few hours sleep, I slung on a Kevlar vest over my shirt, checked the charge on my radio, and walked down the corridor to the door that led out onto the parade ground.
No sooner had I turned the handle than the door burst inwards. Two men sporting ski masks, and 9mm pistols, bundled me back inside.
A hand clamped down hard on my shoulder, forcing me to the floor. The business end of a Glock pressed into the back of my neck.
It was exactly what I’d been told to expect.
Hours of boredom.
Moments of terror.
Two years before I finished what became my debut novel, LOCKDOWN, I had an idea for a TV drama about the burgeoning high-end private security sector. I sat down to write the pilot episode, but halfway through had a rather depressing realisation. I had no idea who my characters really were. I mean, they had names, they walked in and out of scenes, they said stuff to each other, but, somehow, they lay dead on the page.
Dejected, I put the script aside and went back to my paid TV work. But, my fascination with this world, wouldn’t leave me alone.
Six months later, I bit the bullet, and enrolled on a twenty-four day close protection course. The first two weeks would be spent in a dilapidated army camp in
The candidates were a motley crew. They included, among others, an ex-German Special Forces sniper whose only words of English referenced performing a sexual act outlawed in several southern states on the members of the Taliban. There was also an American who bore a startling resemblance to Harry Potter (long after the films have dried up), a Portugese helicopter pilot who did something very nasty to himself during a live exercise, and a Canadian who claimed to be a member of La Cosa Nostra. Oh yeah, and a rather nervous screenwriter.
Thankfully, our instructors were the real deal. Both former members of the British Royal Military Police’s specialist close protection unit, Andy and Cliff had served all over the world, making sure that the great and the good stayed in one piece.
Over a three-week period, they gave me an unparalleled insight into their world. In addition to scaring the hell out of me on numerous occasions (see the opening to this post), they taught me many of the technical aspects of their job. But, far more importantly, they gave me a handle on my characters.
I came away with so much material, and what I felt was such a fresh take, that I jettisoned the TV script and wrote a novel instead. I also had the most enjoyable three weeks of my life running around
LOCKDOWN by Sean Black is published in hardcover on July 30th by Bantam/Transworld. He is currently at work on the second book in the series, LOCKUP.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Dennis Tafoya is the author of Dope Thief, his first novel, which will be published by St. Martin's in May 2009. His second novel will also be published by St. Martin's. He lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he is currently at work on his third novel, Black Horse Pike.
Disillusioned with the slow rate of carbon emissions reductions worldwide, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist decides to bring an abrupt halt to global warming through geoengineering. His plan: enhance the natural sulphide emissions from a recently revived volcano in Chile, seeding the atmosphere with sulphur dioxide particles, and thus cooling the earth by permanently reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the planet.
Three people are in a position to stop him: a microbiologist searching for his missing partner in the vicinity of the remote volcano, the head of an environmental organization better known for staging dramatic protests than taking meaningful action, and the world’s leading volcano adventurer. But should they?
Boiling Point explores the deep divisions in the political, environmental, and scientific communities regarding what should be done about global warming, highlighting the scope of the problem while raising the question: Can anyone know what’s best for the earth?
And the BEST part? I'm leaving in less than a week for a research trip to visit the volcano pictured above, Chaiten Volcano, in Northern Patagonia, Chile! If you're interested in following my travels and travails, check out the Boiling Point blog.
Anyone else had the opportunity to travel to the location where their novel is set?
"Howard Shrier starts with the canvas of a crackling good mystery, then paints a compelling portrait of modern secular Jewish life complete with its wisdom, contradictions, and abiding humor. High Chicago is often funny, sometimes violent, and always thoughtful, with a powerful sense of place throughout. Toronto may have just found its Spenser in PI Jonah Geller, and I can’t wait for his next case."
--Sean Chercover, award-winning author of Trigger City and Big City, Bad Blood
“Shrier's first Jonah Geller mystery was terrific; High Chicago is even better.”
--Linwood Barclay, bestselling author of No Time for Goodbye
“Jonah Geller is hardly your standard issue private eye—equal parts Rambo and Spenser, with the wisdom of a world-weary Rabbi thrown in. He returns for more beatings, bullets, and betrayals in High Chicago, a fast-moving and violent tale that proves your deadliest enemy is probably the person sleeping right beside you. It takes more than his devotion to his Jewish faith, or his expertise in martial arts, to survive this time. I hope he returns for a third book...but considering the punishment he's endured in the first two, I doubt he could survive it."
--Lee Goldberg, author, TV writer-producer and blogger
“A plot brimming with greed, deceit, violence and murder makes High Chicago a fast-paced, entertaining read.”
--Jose Latour, author of Crime of Fashion, Havana Best Friends and Havana World Series.
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley, a paperback original published by Touchstone, has been chosen by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association as its first Great Lakes, Great Reads pick.
The program aims to “promote exceptional titles and authors of regional interest,” for which the association will provide information, publicity and point of purchase materials, including stickers, bookmarks and shelf talkers. GLiBA also will help publishers organize author tours and events and make signed copies available to stores. GLiBA said that this effort “will create a win-win-win situation for all involved and lead to higher visibility and sales for titles selected.”
GLiBA plans to name one to three picks per month, including fiction, nonfiction and children’s books. Publishers may nominate titles. A brochure describing the program is available at the GLiBA website, along with more information about the picks.
Just published, Starvation Lake is a debut novel set in northern Michigan by the Chicago bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. It’s already hit the Heartland Indie Bestseller List and is an Indie Next pick for March.
Matt Norcross, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich., wrote: “Starvation Lake is a Michigan town that doesn’t have much to cheer about these days. Perhaps that is why they make a legend of their most winning hockey coach, Coach Blackburn. Gus Carpenter had Blackburn as a coach and he’ll never forget it, just like he’ll never forget the goal he let in at the State Championship years ago. But when Coach Blackburn’s long lost snowmobile washes up on the shores of the wrong lake many old mysteries float to the surface with it. The deeper Gus digs the more he’ll learn the past isn’t always the way we remember it. Gruley has hit the nail on the head and driven it home with perfect dialog and atmosphere that will give you the chills in this exciting debut.”
Meet Joe Hunter. He’s a new kind of action hero, or maybe anti-hero, depending on your point of view. Joe claims that “some people call me a vigilante. I’d rather think of myself as a problem solver.”
In Matt Hilton’s debut thriller, Dead Men’s Dust, Joe is out to solve all the problems. His half-brother John is missing and it’s up to Joe to find him. John is known to be a bit of a scalawag. His vice is gambling. Joe and John’s estranged wife are sure that his gambling has gotten him into a lot of trouble. Again.
John has left for the States, and Joe leaves England, not too far behind him. Joe has a friend in Florida, Rink, a friend from the old days Joe spent as a Special Forces counterterrorism agent. Together, they follow John’s clues cross country (most notably through Little Rock, Arkansas) on their way to Marina Del Ray, California.
Also traveling cross country is Tubal Cain, one of the most vicious serial killers I have ever read about. Tubal likes to collect souvenirs from his victims–a finger, a thumb. He’s one scary dude.
The book’s chapters alternate between Joe and Rink and Tubal, keeping me on the edge of my seat. When the three finally start to meet, you can expect twists, turns, bombs, and bullets for starters.
Two quotes from Joe led me to want to read Dead Men’s Dust. When asked what the most important lesson he’s learned from his experiences, Joe said, “At its most basic level, civilization shares one undeniable truth: the scream of a victim sounds the same the world over.” Scary, huh? The other quote is Joe’s basic philosophy of life: “You don’t hear the bullet that kills you.”
Dead Men’s Dust is the first in the Joe Hunter series. The next one has a tentative title, Judgment and Worth. If it’s half as good as Dead Men’s Dust, I’ll be glued to the couch the minute I get it.
Armchair Interviews says: This 5-star read is a series to watch.
About the book:
An American, hiding out in Cape Town, South Africa, after being blackmailed into a bank heist back home,is building a new life for his pregnant wife and youngson, when an incident of random violence sets him on a collision course with street gangs and a rogue cop who loves killing almost as much as he loves Jesus Christ.
Praise for MIXED BLOOD:
“A classic wrong-
“A gripping thriller that follows believable (if sometimes grotesque) characters along a desperate rush to ruin. Highly recommended.” Ron Terpening -
“Smith offers a gritty tale of corruption and vengeance set in South Africa in his absorbing debut. His taut prose bodes well for future thrillers from his pen.” - Publishers Weekly
• The protagonist is a nice young woman whose life is suddenly invaded.
• She’s self-made and independent, with primarily good family relationships.
• She has an interesting job.
• She is not looking for trouble–she is doing exactly what she should be doing and something cuts across her bow.
• She solves her problem by her own courage and intelligence.
• The story has no on-scene violence
• The story has no strong four-letter words or explicit sex scenes.
STALKING SUSAN is set in the desperate world of TV news, where a reporter discovers a serial killer is targeting women named Susan, killing one on the same day each year.
The winner will be honored at the Edgar Symposium’s Agents & Editors Party April 29 in New York.