Friday, September 30, 2011

Amazon says 'Merry Christmas, authors.'

So Amazon decided this was as good a week as any to shake up the e-reader/tablet computer market. The big headline, or at least the headline that everyone expected to be the big one, was about the Amazon Fire. And I'll admit that another tablet on the market is cool. And, yeah, this one probably has the best shot at challenging the iPad. Although, I'm not really sure that the iPad is challengable at this point. Besides, with its features and size, the Amazon Fire looks more like Amazon's attempt to go after the Nook Color and not the iPad.

What excited me more about Amazon's announcement was the new line of Kindles. Especially the new prices on the Kindles. Those are game changers. The $79 and $99 price points that Amazon announced earlier this week make the ereaders a little more than an impulse buy. More people with readers mean more people needing books to fill them. That's what has me and other authors excited.

I read several blog posts about the whole thing. I grabbed a few snippets I wanted to share. Like me, they seem to be looking forward to the holiday shopping season.

The first bit is from Jon F. Merz. You can read the entire post HERE.

Amazon’s drastic price reductions will mean that more people than ever before will start to embrace ebooks. They’ve been hearing about them for a while. And now they can actually see what the fuss is about. Dropping the Kindle to below $99 bucks is a huge move and psychologically, the purchase of an ereader now becomes an-almost impulse buy. With indie authors pricing their ebooks intelligently between $2.99-$4.99 the lure of ebooks has never been stronger.
It’s going to be one very interesting holiday season, indeed.

Sean Sweeney looks at lots of things in his blog post HERE. I particularly liked his take on the Barnes and Noble response.

Of course, B&N is coming out with new devices later this year, a new Nook Color rumored to be among them.

Here's what I think B&N will do: panic. They'll see the writing on the wall and try to undercut Amazon like they did in Summer 2010. Amazon will then calmly cut the price of their devices even further, which they did after B&N brought out the 3G Nook. Bezos makes the guarantee: Amazon WILL have the lowest price ereader out there.

That is how you revolutionize reading. By being the affordable e-reader that everyone wants.

Let the holiday shopping begin.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Noir and music : A guest post by Sean May

Today I turn the blog over to Sean May, a writer currently living in Indianapolis, Indiana. His work has been featured in Crimefactory, Diagonal Proof and 5923 Quarterly. His debut novel, The Case, is available for the Kindle. His collection of short stories, Crimewave is coming to the Kindle and the Nook this October.

Singing a darker tune

The impact of noir on our culture is far-reaching, encompassing seventy or so years of dark alleyways, femme fatales, shifty criminals and crooked cops, but typically when people talk about noir, their focus goes to two specific mediums: film and literature. And why shouldn't it? Noir was born in the pages of pulps and explored even further on the sliver screen. But noir goes deeper than those two medium, and its influence can be seen in just about every form of entertainment, but it has had a significant impact on music. With that in mind, here's a quick list of 3 artists that have a decidedly noir tone to all or some of their work, in no particular order.

The National
Hailing from Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati, The National evoke a sense of James M. Cain style domestic dread, full of people who have given up on their dreams to settle into a world of tense, drunken parties and illicit rendevous. Their 2007 album Boxer is a gin-soaked masterpiece, with each song portraying an often dismal relationship. Lead singer Matt Berringer's rumbling croon leads you down into the deep, dark recesses of your soul, and you may not like what you find once you get down there. Their follow-up, High Violet, is a bit more upbeat, but still retains Boxer's sense of dread with songs like Conversation 16 and Anyone's Ghost.

Neko Case
If your first experience with Neko Case is with her power-pop supergroup The New Pornographers, you haven't even seen the half of her talent. While Case's New Pornographers' work is bright and shiny, Case's solo work is gloomy and forlorn, taking a decidedly rural bent, but with a definite noir core. Case's voice glides like a hawk above the fray of the treachery that she depicts in her songs. Tracks like Deep Red Bells, Twist The Knife, and Margaret vs. Pauline are tiny dramas set against a bleak noir background. Case avoids being a one-note femme fatale in the sense that her lyrics often reflect an enjoyment of the dire situations she participates in, or even creates.

Kanye West
Now, this will probably be a controversial choice to say the least, but stay with me for a minute. Kanye's inclusion on this list is due almost entirely to his 2010 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Across the album's tracks, West portrays the hardships and darkness that lies behind even the most apparently glamorous lifestyle. Tracks like Power and Devil in a Red Dress show that the pressures of excess can be deadly, while Monster casts West and his cohorts as vengeful miscreants who will spill as much blood as they need to get to the top. If you're looking for more noir in Kanye's work, it'll be tough to find, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a prime example of how the darker side of fame can weigh heavy on the shoulders of those at the top.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A day late

At the sci fi convention I was at over the weekend there was an author who'd put a sign on the table they'd rented. It said something like this "Rent the other half of this table for $5 for half an hour." I would have. In a heartbeat I would have. If I had the books I'd ordered I would have. But I didn't have the books and it didn't make sense to rent the table with nothing to sell.

I was hoping at the end of the week last week that the books would get here in time, but they didn't. So I just took my postcards on the freebie table with about 100 other cards. I did have 15 taken so I count that a success.

But what I wanted were the books. Those were going to go for $5 a piece. I really think I could have sold several of them at that price. Heck, I think I could have sold all of them. But they didn't get here until about 5 p.m. today. A day late.

Really, though, what this means is that there are more books for you to buy now. I'm still trying to work out how that will work. I've been looking into adding a way to buy the books from the blog. I know there has to be a way to do it, I just don't know how. I'm sure I'll figure something out. What I do know is that when you buy a copy from me I'll sign it unless you tell me you don't want that. It will be like a perpetual book signing. So stay tuned. Something's coming.

If you just want to buy a copy of the book right away, you can do that too. It's on Amazon. Click HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Get to know Fingers Murphy

This week's interview is with Fingers Murphy. No, that's not his real name, as you'll find out. He's another someone who I met through Twitter. You seeing  a pattern yet? If not, give it time. You'll see it. Fingers has two books out right now, Follow the Money and The Flaming Motel. As you'll be able to tell from the questions, I really liked Follow the Money. The story is great, but I really loved how L.A. became so much a part of the story. I'm in the middle of The Flaming Motel now and it's just as good. Once you get done reading the interview go and buy the books if you don't already have them. You'll love them.

So where did FOLLOW THE MONEY come from? Give us the story behind the story in 150 words.

The murder at the center of the story was adapted from a real case that occurred in the Seattle area in the late-80s. The defendant in the real case was tried three times and lost every time. I thought that would make a great jumping off point for a much more sinister plot. The legal machination at the center of the story takes an obscure legal doctrine -- obscure to non-lawyers anyway -- and turns it on it's head.

I decided to try writing a legal thriller about ten years ago. I wanted something very accurate. That really captured the world I was in, which was one very much like the firm in the book. What I found interesting was that these white shoe law firms are not at all bad places like you see in movies. But there are compromises people make to work at these places and the result of those compromises is that people often end up very different than they intended to. That fascinates me. Very smart, ambitious, hard working people who sometimes contort themselves to justify who they are and what they've become.

Was it always a plan for Ollie's story to evolve into a series?

No. I had no intention to write a sequel to Follow the Money. That idea came from my agent. I was going to write a stand alone crime novel and she said that was crazy. Publishers wanted a series and she believed that if this was a series she could get me a very big deal with a major house. So, I sat down a came up with a second Ollie book, which became The Flaming Motel.

You're in the legal world. How much of you is in Ollie?

There are obvious parallels. We both come from blue collar backgrounds and knew nothing about being a lawyer.  I always tell people that the only lawyers anyone in my family ever knew were court-appointed.  And that's true. Ollie and I both went to work at major law firms, probably seduced by the same basic things, status, money, and the sense of surprise that someone from where we came from could ever even get access to this world.

But beyond that the parallels end. I'm still in that world and was probably never as naive about it as Ollie is.  Ollie's life in The Flaming Motel, which is the sequel, is much more the fantasy life I think about when I imagine how things would have gone if I'd chucked it all and walked early on.

What drew you to the law as a profession, and is it the same thing that draws you to it as a writer? Or is it more of a case of writing what you know?

I came to the law the way many people do: because I didn't know what else to do.  I'd gotten a psychology degree.  Your choices at that point are basically to become a teacher, go to grad school, or enter the job market and be one of a million others entering the market with no marketable skills.  I had no interest in teaching, so I went to grad school.  I settled on law because I thought I had some idea of what lawyers do and the subject seemed interesting.  Turned out that, like most people, I had no idea what being a lawyer is really like. But the subject is inherently interesting.

As for writing about legal settings, it probably is a case of writing what you know.  Although I do think there is a reason legal thrillers are so popular, along with movies and TV shows about law: the subject touches our lives in so many ways.  So, in that sense, the legal thriller is really just a framework to talk about anything else you might want to talk about because there are legal issues to just about everything.  So you can tell endless stories within stories in the legal genre.
That said, $200 and a Cadillac is not a legal thriller at all.  So I'm trying to get outside my comfort zone.

What's the story behind the name Fingers Murphy? Why the need for anonymity and how did you decide on Fingers Murphy?

It's actually a joke between my wife and me. When she was pregnant with our son and we were going through the inevitable hand wringing over names, we kept trying to come up with good Irish names. We never settled on one that we liked, but during the process I kept agitating for what sound to me like old school gangster names. "Knuckles" Murphy was my favorite, but I liked "Fingers" too.  Needless to say, the name was still available when I needed a pseudonym, and it was thematically appropriate for what I was doing.

As for anonymity, I work in a world that is extremely sensitive about how even the smallest thing is perceived.  To the extent I say anything negative about the practice of law, or large firms, or even have the characters say negative or aggressive things about the law -- which they definitely do in The  Flaming Motel -- the pseudonym provides a buffer.  I've also published a legal book under my real name and the thinking was that it's better to separate the two identities.  One is the professional lawyer/legal scholar identity, the other is the fiction writer.

That legal book was published by a major publisher, so I actually did go through the process once.  It was a good experience, but when it was all done I thought: Is that it? Is that really all you guys do?  I can do this myself.

Any chance we ever find out who you really are?

Honestly, if some enterprising person who knows the legal world really wanted to figure it out, it wouldn't take too long to come up with a short list of possibilities. I challenge someone to do that, and make a big public spectacle of it too! Might sell some books that way.  New York Times? Are you listening?  I think we have next week's magazine piece all ready for you.

Without getting too specific and revealing your secret identity, give us your writing history.

Like a lot of writers, I knew early on that this was something I wanted to do. I wrote my first novel when I was 15 or 16.  Truly awful stuff. And I kept at into my early twenties. Then I realized I needed to have a day job, so I put the writing on hold, went to law school, became a lawyer and started practicing. Then, in my late-twenties, I started feeling this real urgency, like if I didn't get serious right away I never would.

I always imagined I'd write serious novels, whatever those are. The kind of crap people thinks is great when they're in college. But then I realized that, not only is that not what most people actually read, it wasn't even what I was reading. I used to look down on genre writing and then I realized that that's often where the most interesting stuff really is. So I challenged myself to write a legal thriller and I sat down and pounded out Follow the Money. 

I sent it off to some agents and, after a few months, I got one. Amazingly, this was an agency that specialized in mysteries and had a very good track record and I thought, what are people talking about when they say this is hard? This is easy! Little did I know.

Well, the agent was very excited. I had just turned thirty, she loved the book, started sending it around, and she told me I had to get working on a second in the series immediately. She was pretty convinced that we were going to land a major deal. This was 2003.  I was the perfect age to break out as a hot young writer. She thought the book was one of the best debuts she'd read in a long time. The certainty she had was infectious.

So the book goes out, editors at some major houses start asking to read the whole thing, they're asking if this is a series, if I have another book underway. It was pretty heady.  We got to that stage with three houses and my agent was talking about how to do an auction.  All of that.  And then it all just died.  It was stunning. 

The editor at St. Martins actually wrote us a letter (after she called my agent to tell her the bad news) where she said that she thought the second half of the book was one of the most addictive page-turners she'd ever read. And yet, they were declining because their marketing department didn't think the market would support another major legal thriller writer. It was just too crowded. Basically, because they weren't certain that they could sell a million copies, they weren't going to take the book at all.

I thought, what kind of insane business model is this?

So, freed up from having to write the series, I went ahead and wrote the stand alone crime novel I'd wanted to write, which is called $200 and a Cadillac.  At that point I was just having fun, writing for me alone. I sent it to my agent and she declined it!  She thought I'd lost my mind!  Then I sent it to another agent who had liked Follow the Money and he loved it, but he declined it too. He wrote me a letter, this was probably in 2006, and basically said, I love your book, it's exactly the kind of thing I personally love to read, but there's no way I can sell it.  No major house is going to buy it.  I appreciated the honesty.

So I sat down and wrote another. This one is a very dark novella. I kind of laughed when I was doing it, because I thought, a 25,000 word novella? Talk about something no publisher is going to buy!  But I didn't care anymore. I decided the guiding principle had to be to write something I would find interesting. I had to trust that there would be other people out there with similar taste.

What's your relationship like with the city of Los Angeles?

I'm not from LA. I often think that nobody really is. That's not true, of course, but I always find it curious when I hear someone refer to LA as their hometown. The city is a lot of things, but it's hard to think of it as a "hometown." The word just doesn't fit.

I first came to Southern California when I joined the Marines at 19. And I found it so iconic. I mean everyone in America has an idea about LA because it's so pervasive in our culture. It's weird to drive around as an outsider because the whole place is eerily familiar to you.  After all, you've seen it in moves and on TV since your childhood.

And yet, it's like seeing a famous person. You know who they are, but you don't know them at all.  And like any complicated person, LA takes time to get to know, and once you do, you discover that it's nothing like you thought. It's a complex, contradictory, interesting, and infuriating town. And it either works for you or it doesn't, but you won't know that until you've been there for a few years.

In FOLLOW THE MONEY I got a real sense of LA. I think I mentioned to you on Twitter that the way you described it made we want to move there, a place I've never even visited. Was it a conscious choice on your part to make LA as much a part of the story as it seemed to be to me? Or was I just reading way too much into it?

It wasn't conscious. But I do think that locations are important. The two books I have coming up, the crime novel $200 and a Cadillac and the novella called Everything I  Tell you is a Lie, take place elsewhere. The first in the Mojave desert and the second in rural eastern Washington state, and I hope the locations in each are equally evocative.

I am a believer that place defines us in more ways than we realize. We carry the place where we come from with us our entire lives, and that affects our relationship with whatever place we're in. How we react to it, what we see in it. Ollie comes from a poor, working class neighborhood. So he sees money in everything. From the opening page of the book where he's obsessing about the cost of the lunch and Jim Carver's shirt to the end, much of what Ollie observes about the world is economic. The place he comes from is economically deprived and the place he's in is one of the richest places in the world.

Time for another story-behind-the-story moment.  How did THE FLAMING MOTEL come together? This time take as many words as you need.

As I said before, I had no plan for a series, so when my agent demanded that I write a second book, I found myself scrambling to come up with an idea. The basic event that starts the book, the shooting of Don Vargas at a Halloween party, actually happened in LA. In the real case it was an actor who was shot. It was one of those terrible stories about police overreaction that are unfortunately too common.  I took that incident and built a plot around it.

I wanted to write a story about redemption and whether some things are just unforgivable.  I also wanted to explore the idea of ambiguity in relationships and the corrosive effect of secrets between two people. 

And I wanted all of it to get rolled into something that, for me, had the feel of an old school 50s or 60s detective novel.  Like a legal thriller written by Ross MacDonald.

God comes to you and says I need all of your books but three. Which three do you keep and why?

Wow. That's a good spin on the favorite book question.  I guess I'd start with The Old Man and the Sea.  I really think that's one of the greatest books ever written.  I love it when a master who's been working at it for his whole life finally strips his work down to its barest elements. That book is Hemingway giving it his all, but at the same time employing total self-restraint.  I could say the same thing about Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

I would take McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.  To me, that book does everything a huge, sprawling epic should do.  How do you write something a thousand pages long and leave the reader begging for more?  I wish I knew.  I'd love to write a crime novel that long and engrossing some day.

Lastly, I'd take Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.  I love him for that bold language.  I've been trying to teach my son to find his barbaric yawp since he first started to talk.  I think he's getting in touch with it. 

And hey, Whitman was self-published too, so we're all in good company.

Give us a recommended reading list. What are some little-known books that more people should be reading?

I tell everyone who likes crime and detective novels that they need to read Ross MacDonald.  He's not "little known" among fans of crime fiction, but the wider public has forgotten him.  I think The Chill is one of the greatest books of all time.  But you could say that about a lot of his books: The Underground Man, The Far Side of the Dollar, The Blue Hammer.  He's awesome.

James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss and One to Count Cadence are two books that should be in every bookstore in America.  I feel the same way about Jim Harrison's Letters to Yesenin.  I actually carry a copy of the recent Copper Canyon Press reissue of that book in my briefcase with me.  It goes everywhere I go.  It's been all over the world.  There may be no better book for a struggling writer to read.  How can you argue with a guy who writes: "Years ago I was ambitious/But now it is clear that nothing will happen"?  Especially when that guy goes on to become one of the best writers of his generation?  There's hope for us all.  I'd probably hide that one from God too.

What's up next for you? What can we look for in the future?

The next book, $200 and a Cadillac will be out as soon as I can get it out.  The novella Everything I tell you is a Lie comes after that.  Then I've got four different novels that are in various states. 
One is another Ollie book that, if it gets written, will be told in third person and will feature, Ollie, Liz, Detective Wilson, and Max Stanton from The Flaming Motel all in equal portions.  It's a risk because the book won't have that first person Ollie narration.

Another is an offshoot of the Ollie books.  Ollie could be a minor figure in it, but the central character would be Max Stanton, who is thrown out of his firm and ends up "retiring" in Montana, only to get drug into a bizarre case.  I've thought about writing that one as straight Ollie book too.  The plot is all worked out around the Stanton character.  But I could change that.

Then, I've got a stand-alone book about a man who abducts his son and takes him on a road trip from LA to Seattle, all the while being pursued by the FBI.  I love the story and have a bunch of great scenes written for it, but it hasn't gelled for me yet into a complete narrative.  I'm missing a couple key pieces.  Who knows if I'll ever find them.

Finally, the book I might actually complete first is a real departure for me.  It's a comedic picaresque novel about a mysterious guy who shows up in a small mountain town and tries to return to nature as a modern day Thoreau.  Of course, he ends up running for mayor, backed by a group of ultra-libertarian secessionists.  Given the political climate in our country, I actually think that one's pretty timely. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A little of this, a little of that

I'm at the library looking for jobs and doing a little writing. I am finding it tough to stay at home and be as productive as I want to be. Too many distractions. Whether it's a chore to take care of, or just a TV show to watch, there's always something to distract me. I think I am most productive when I'm away from the comforts of the casa. This is only the second time I've been here, but I feel like I'm getting more done. Applied for one job. Searched several sites for others. Even wrote 500 words on a short story that came to mind the other day.

I'm enjoying the short story so far. It has a younger protagonist than I'm used to writing, so that's making it fun. And I like the dynamic I've established between the two characters in the opening scene.

If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you'll know that I don't really plot out my short stories. I have an idea where they're going to go, but nothing in stone. Same is true with this one. I have an idea, but it's only a rough one. The only thing that came to mind the other day was the opening. Where it goes from there, who knows?

You may have seen the blog post last week about wanting guest bloggers and interview subjects. The offer still stands for both. I've got one interview ready to go for Friday. Well, almost ready to go. And I have a guest blog post that is being finished for next Thursday. That will be the schedule, by the way. Planning interviews for Friday and guest blog posts on Thursday. This will allow me to keep the blog filled with content. It also gives me a chance to keep my editing and interview skills sharp while I look for that new job.

Hope you all like the changes and let me know if you want to take part.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back home and ready to go

I got back from Kansas City yesterday afternoon. We had to go up for my grandmother's funeral. She passed very early Sept. 11. She was 93. For the last few years she was having a hard time seeing and hearing. Her memory was also failing her.

Gina and I went up to visit her a few years ago over a long weekend. I was amazed at her mind. She had a hard time remembering who I was at times. She'd ask questions about my dad and my uncle and my brother, not remembering that I was related to any of them. Then she'd go into detail about how you harvest, hang, and dry tobacco, something she hadn't done in 80 years.

It feels weird to say you had a good time at a funeral. At least it does for me. But I did have a good time. I got to see cousins I hadn't seen in almost 20 years. Maybe longer than that. I enjoyed getting to see them and catch up. I also got to listen to my dad, my uncle, and their cousins tell stories of growing up. It was special. We are all going to miss my grandmother, but it's nice having a family that's close no matter how many years pass between us seeing each other.

But now I'm back home and ready to focus, both on the job search and on the writing. I've been working on the former and not doing enough of the latter. Spent last week writing and polishing my resume. It's going to be sent out starting today. And I've got a story outline for Book 2 that needs to be filled in.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Get to know Anthony Neil Smith

I met Anthony Neil Smith through Twitter, but I knew about him before that. I found his site Plots With Guns years ago when I first started researching writing markets. He was editing it at the time. He doesn't anymore. He's the publisher now. But he's also an author. Find his books here and buy one or two. They don't cost more than a couple of bucks, tops. And, if you're on Twitter you need to follow him there. Honestly, with all his promotion, I think he's responsible for about half the sales of Chasing Filthy Lucre.

In 100 words or less, give us the writing history of Anthony Neil Smith.

     Read HARDY BOYS in 2nd grade. Wanted to do that. Wrote little stories. Moved on to adult fiction. Loved crime stories. Then--comic books, rock and roll, guitar, religious conversion, more music, religious de-conversion, Creative Writing Classes, James Ellroy & PULP FICTION (same year, I think), grad school, published short stories, published novels. Now trying to write more.

 If you had to classify yourself as a writer, put yourself into a genre, which one would it be? And you don't have to stick to the traditional genres. Make one up if you think it'd fit better.

     Yeah, really, I have no problem at all with the label of crime writer. I embrace it. The coolest writers, to me, were always the crime writers--usually smart and respected by literary folks while simultaneously being accepted by the commercial crowd. I write stories about characters dealing with the consequences of crime. And I like that.

Following some of the conversations you've been having on Twitter with others, you seem to spend a bit of time contemplating the direction of crime and noir fiction. So, what is their future? What direction are they heading in, and is that good or bad?

     I don't know anymore. There are things I hope will happen, like a lot more literary writers embracing genre and thus doing cool shit with it, but I'm not sure what's going on with publishing right now. Seems harder for edgy crime writers. I see a lot more use of noir as a flavoring in other genres or lit fiction. I like that, too.
     With ebooks flourishing, I hope we'll see a return to shorter novels like they had in the 50s and 60s. And I'd like to see prices of ebooks settle at a level that will attract a lot of new readers rather than just folks with a lot of money. 10 bucks for a book just doesn't seem right. 10 bucks for an ebook, even less so.
Another Twitter based question. You seem to spend as much time promoting other people's work there as you do your own. Is that just the good, Christian thing to do, or do you have sinister motives?

     I've always been a fan. I started PLOTS WITH GUNS as a way to read more stories in the vein I liked, which we didn't get from the BIG TWO crime mags at the time. And when I get around other writers, I talk about the writers I like, and the ones I don't. If I find a new write through PWG who deserves attention, I work like hell to do whatever I can to get it. So with Twitter and ebooks, I've found a new way to do that. And it's fun.

I know your books are like your children, all little snowflakes and special in their own way. Still, crush the dreams of all of the others and pick a favorite. Then tell us why you love that one more.

     Well, there is an unpublished one about a nerdy, shy PI who, for some reason, is irresistible to women, so he ends up having sex with allllll sorts of people. Not a "pan to the curtains" type of thing you see in older noir flicks. And, well, he can't help himself, but it makes him tired. Oh, and his older sister has him trapped in an incestuous relationship, too, that he can't free himself from. Somewhere in there, he tries to find a missing pregnant teenager.
     I think that book really taught me how to write the sorts of books I've written since. It was my third one, and it didn't sell, so I moved on to YELLOW MEDICINE and HOGDOGGIN.

At what point in your career did you say to yourself, "I'm a writer."

     Either when I sent a story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine when I was 19 (terrible story. Rejected), or when I made the decision to go to grad school. At that point, I knew I wasn't going to stop until I got to publish books.
     What's been the biggest challenge of self publishing? Most rewarding experience of self publishing?
     The most rewarding is the surprise of having new readers get so excited about the books. The internet makes that easier than ever. I love to hear from them. The challenge is reaching them. How do I find these people and market myself in such a way as to make them want to give my stuff a try? I keep looking.

What's the one piece of advice you'd give to someone thinking of putting their own work out there?

     Make sure it's ready -- editing and formatting solid, reviewed by several readers -- and then be smart about promotion. People want to get to know you, not constantly hear your pitch. Give it some variety. Play around.

Give us a quick recommended reading list. What little-known books have you discovered that more people should know about?

     That would take forever. And forever. Seriously, follow me on @docnoir on Twitter, and you'll see. I will say that I'm excited that PLOTS WITH GUNS alums (whom we call "Crimedogs") Frank Bill and Greg Bardsley both landed cool book deals. Awesome!

Now how about the three books you couldn't live without?

     Collected Stories of Flannery O'Connor, LUSH LIFE by Richard Price, and the Dave Berry book where he went to Japan. The single funniest opening 30 pages I'd ever read.

Finally, what's next for you? Anything we should know about?

     I've got a new e-book coming out in October called ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, more of a thriller than my usual noir chops. Still, very dark. Keep an eye out for that and the new company publishing it soon.
     I'm working on some new novels. Seems like I have so many I want to write that I ended up freezing myself. Chipping away, though.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The print copy. One step closer.

I mentioned a post or two ago that I was working on a print edition for Chasing Filthy Lucre. Well, today I got the final proof of the book in the mail from CreateSpace. It looks great. This will be the version of the book that I order for the coming convention that I mentioned previously.

Not sure exactly how many of them I'm going to order, but whatever I don't sell at the convention I'm going to make available to everyone here and on Twitter. I'm going to mark them somehow so that it will be obvious that these were from the first bulk printing of the book. I'll probably call them certified convention editions or something similar. I'll write that on the front page, number the book, and sign each copy. Not sure what the cost will be, but it shouldn't be too expensive. Something for folks who really enjoyed the ebook version -- or who just really like me -- to buy and have on their shelves.

I'm excited about this if you can't tell. I've got other plans that I spelled out in the previous post. For now, I'm just going to enjoy having a book in with my name on the cover in my hands.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wanted: Guest bloggers and interview subjects

So now that I've got a little time on my hands, I think I'd like to make some changes to the blog. Right now I'm thinking guest posts and author interviews on a regular schedule. Still working out the details in my head, but if you're an author of crime or sci-fi fiction and would be interested in participating, let me know.

To get an idea of how I'd do the interviews, look at this one I did recently with Steve Umstead.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Losing the day job

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you likely know this already, but I lost my newspaper job on Tuesday. There was a pretty big reorganization and my position was eliminated. I was hoping that in the reorganization I'd be moved to a different department. It was a possibility, but it didn't happen.

I've been telling everyone that I'm OK with losing my job, and I am. Honestly. Thinking about a new job, a new career is exciting.

This company was the only one I'd worked for so there wasn't a lot of need to keep a real up to date resume. Any time I moved positions, they already had my work history on file. So that's what I'm doing today. Updating/creating a resume so I can get serious about my job search. I've spent some time this morning looking for jobs. I'm seeing some things that seem like they'd be lots of fun. Good jobs with good companies that could use the skills I've spent the last 14 years building.

Gina seems to be taking this job loss harder than I am in some ways. I think we are both understandably a little scared about what the future holds for us. We are in decent shape financially. We will be able to weather the storm for a while if I can't find something. And I've reassured her that I don't plan on being out of work for long. If I can't find a career job, I'll start looking for any job. I'm a healthy guy with two strong arms and two strong legs. I'm not proud. I'll put those to use if I have to. But that's not why she's sad. She keeps telling me this was your dream job. And it was.

Newspapers are all I've done since I graduated from college in 1997. They're all I'd wanted to do before that. Since I was a kid. In the fourth grade a friend and I drew up a newspaper. It had four or six pages. There was a sports section. There were comics. I made a World Series prediction. The Yankees to win it I think. This was 1983 or 1984 so I was way off. My friend's mom made photocopies of our creation and we passed them around the grade level at school. It was called Revealed.

I worked on the newspaper in sixth grade and then again in high school and in college. I was a journalism major. See? Newspapers were it for me. It took 10 years of professional work to get to the job I'd always wanted to do, the one I was doing when I was let go. I think that's what has Gina so sad. I was finally getting to do what I'd always wanted.

But I keep telling her that I got to do that job for four years, and it was a blessing. I did work I'm proud of and got to collaborate with some truly talented people. I won a couple of awards that will look good on that new resume I'm making. Would I have liked to keep the job? Of course. But I was in a vulnerable position in a company that's struggling, just like all newspaper companies are right now. It was just my time to go.

So, that's the update. The job search is on my mind a lot right now so you will be seeing more about it here. Hope you don't mind. And I hope you don't see much more, that'll mean I found something rather quickly.

In the meantime I'm looking at this as an opportunity to be a full-time job searcher/full-time writer. I am going to concentrate more on my writing and on getting the word out about Chasing Filthy Lucre and the world of New Eden that I've created.

So if you are inclined to help, you could do it by buying a copy of the book. I could use the 35 or 40 cents I get per copy. And, if you've already bought the book, you could leave a reviews somewhere. I can definitely use more of those. And if you've done both of those, you can help by telling others about Chasing Filthy Lucre.

To wrap this up, a lot of my writing friendships are the virtual kind. Many of you wouldn't know me if we passed in a crowded room, Still, you offered kind words when you heard about the layoff. I truly appreciate that. It's a comfort to me and to Gina.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Plans for print

I've signed up for my first sci-fi convention. It's in a few weeks and I'm excited. It's a convention that's much more literary than what they put on in San Diego every year. It's much more literary than the conventions that are put on around here every year. At least that's the impression I get. One of the local newspapers called the convention one of the best annual book functions in the area. It should be fun. I should get to meet some cool people who are fans of sci fi. These should be my potential readers.

I am going to do what I can to meet folks and network since I won't be the only writer there. I'm also going to do what I can to hand sell my book. I've planned to have some postcards made up that will include the Chasing Filthy Lucre book cover on one side and information on how to buy the ebook on the other.

I'm also going to have hard copies. I'd never planned on putting out  a hard copy of Chasing Filthy Lucre. It was just too short to make it worth while, or so I thought. But this convention got me thinking about selling a small number of hard copies. So the plan is to have some hard copies printed and carry them with me in a bag. If talk to someone and they want to buy a copy then I can go to the bag. I'm expecting to see a proof from the good folks at Createspace in the next few days. If it looks good, I should be able to order some hard copies in time for the convention.

But doing the work on the print edition made me think a little more about possibilities and I've got some ideas. Exciting ideas, at least on this end. It'll involve print editions, autographs, selling books through the blog and, potentially, a personal web site. The plan still isn't fully developed but right now I'm thinking there will be limited first editions copies that will be available for a little more cost, second and third editions that will be a little cheaper. And overall they will be cheaper than most self-published print books. That was a goal when I started putting these print editions together. I wanted to be able to sell them for less than $10.

One of the problems I've always had with self-published print books is the cost. For the author to make any money they have to charge a price that most people aren't willing to pay. Chasing Filthy Lucre, though, won't be that. I'm keeping the profits low in the hopes that I can move more books, make it almost an impulse purchase.

I'll go more into my print plans as they become a little more set in stone. But I'm excited about what's coming up, and wanted to let you all know.