Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Last Gasp of Christmas Cheer...Sort of

Just in case you haven't had quite enough Christmas cheer, haven't taken your tree down or dumped it in the woods yet, haven't removed those garish lights hanging all over the shrubs in your front yard, and haven't sung (or hummed, if you can't quite remember the words, especially after that third or fourth eggnog) your final Christmas carol until next December, I cordially invite you to visit the blog from the good folks at Do Some Damage for a little Christmas noir flash story from yours truly.

Do Some Damage is a blog hosted by some of the hottest, up-and-coming members of the crime fiction community - Bryon Quertermous, Joelle Charbonneau, Steve Weddle, Jay Stringer, John McFetridge, Dave White, Russell D. McLean and Scott D. Parker, to be precise - and someone among them came up with the bright idea to host a Christmas noir flash fiction challenge.

The idea was for writers to come up with a noir flash story, no more than 1000 words long, somehow involving Christmas. The stories would be featured, a couple a day, at Do Some Damage, starting the week before Christmas and running through New Year's Day. The thing has been so successful, they're getting record numbers of hits every day as folks check out the unbelievable variety of holiday noir.

What's the point? Thanks for asking. I submitted a story after learning of the challenge, and mine is up at their site now. "Christmas Carole" tells the tale of a pair of brothers, one of whom is facing a weighty problem as Christmas approaches, and the unique way the other finds to deal with it.

Check it out if you have a few minutes. They say Christmas comes just once a year, but in this case, it's not really true.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do You Like Short Fiction? How About a Free Book of it?

This past summer I downloaded Dave Zeltserman's incredible short story collection, 21 TALES, to my Kindle and devoured it like Charlie Sheen at happy hour. If you're not familiar with his work, you should check out one of his books; this guy can really write.
While reading the stories in his collection I remember thinking a couple of things:
1) This guy can really write, and
2) Why don't I do this?

Now, Dave Zeltserman is a pretty accomplished author. He has written some critically acclaimed stuff and although my first novel hasn't even been released yet, it occurred to me that releasing my own short story collection might serve a couple of purposes. It could introduce people who may not be familiar with me, and may not want to part with eight bucks for my novel, to my work. If they then decide they like that work, maybe they will go on to try FINAL VECTOR.

I have also had a decent amount of success with my short fiction and it makes a certain sense, at least to me, to release the short story collection, titled POSTCARDS FROM THE APOCALYPSE, on the eve of my debut novel's release.

So I'm excited to announce that anyone who has signed up for my email newsletter by midnight on Christmas Eve will be eligible for the drawing to win one of five copies of the upcoming POSTCARDS FROM THE APOCALYPSE. To sign up, simply go to http://www.allanleverone.com/ and click on the "Contact" button on the left sidebar, then enter your email info - it is secure and will NEVER be shared with anyone else for any reason.

Among the seventeen stories inside POSTCARDS are "Regrets, I've Had a Few" and "Independence Day," both finalists for a 2009 Derringer Award for Best Short Story, "Uncle Brick and Jimmy Kills," a Derringer Award finalist in 2010 for Best Novelette, and "Dance Hall Drug," a nominee for a 2011 Pushcart Prize.

There is a mixed bag of material in the book, some noir, some mystery fiction and some horror/dark fiction, but as I mention in the foreword, pretty much everything you read involves someone doing something bad to someone else and maybe - or maybe not - getting what's coming to them in the end.

POSTCARDS FROM THE APOCALYPSE will be available shortly after Christmas, but I'd love to see you win a free copy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh Look, It's a Soapbox!

The International Thriller Writers is a very cool organization, always on the lookout for ways to promote not just the thriller genre as a whole, but also the work of its practitioners. One of the newest ways they have found to do that is called the "Thriller Roundtable," a blog-based discussion forum giving readers and writers an opportunity to interact on nearly a real-time basis.

The topics - and the authors discussing those topics - change weekly, and since the launch of Thriller Roundtable have included favorites like Jonathan Maberry, Andrew Gross, Robert Gregory Browne, Reed Farrel Coleman, Boyd Morrison and many others, including a bonus discussion last week involving thriller legends Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, Joseph Finder and MJ Rose.

Some of the topics which have already been covered and which are archived here, if you're interested, include "Why do you write/read thrillers?," "Who is the best antagonist of all time (other than Hannibal Lecter)?," and one of particular interest to me, "What's the one piece of advice you'd give to the next generation of thriller authors?"

The reason I mention all of this, aside from the fact that if you're a fan of the thriller genre - whether as a reader or a writer - it's a fantastic opportunity to see inside the minds of some of the premier practitioners of the craft, is that the folks at the ITW have very generously given me a chance to participate in next week's Thriller Roundtable as one of the featured authors.

I'm incredibly excited to take advantage of this lapse in judgment...I mean, uh, opportunity...yeah, that's it, opportunity...provided by the ITW. Next week's topic is "What's one myth about being an author you'd like to debunk?" and along with my semi-coherent thoughts on the subject you can also probably get some real insight from my fellow panelists Susanna Kearsley, Julie Korzenko, C.E. Lawrence, Bonnie Hearn Hill and Jeremy Robinson.

The Roundtable discussion kicks off this coming Monday, December 13 and runs through Friday the 17th. Sick of Christmas shopping? Haven't started yet but looking for one more way to procrastinate? Check out this week's Thriller Roundtable; I'd love to see you there.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Awards? I Don't Need No Stinkin' Awards

If you're a genre writer and you want your work to be eligible for certain awards - the Edgars, for example - you need to be a member of the Mystery Writers of America. The MWA's list of eligibility requirements is fairly extensive and includes earnings thresholds that must be met to be considered a professional author, as well as requirements publishers must meet for their authors to qualify.

Fair enough; after all, it's their organization, they have the right to run it however they want.

I'll be honest - I'd love for FINAL VECTOR to be eligible for a Best First Novel Edgar. And yes, before you say it, I am well aware it would be the ultimate longshot, but you can't win if you don't play, right?

The problem is I can't play.

I meet the earning requirement by virtue of the advance for my debut novel and my publisher, Medallion Press, is a qualifying publisher. But I am still not eligible to join the MWA as an active member, because of a rule that states, "The initial print run for a book-length work of fiction or non-fiction must be at least 500 copies."

Sounds pretty reachable, right?

And, in fact, if FINAL VECTOR was being released as a mass-market paperback, which was the original plan, it would not be an issue. But in this rapidly changing publishing landscape, many of the smaller/Indie publishers are abandoning the unprofitable mass-market paperback format for the lower-overhead electronic format. Which is exactly what Medallion has done, meaning there will be NO print run.

I wrote an email to the MWA asking for a clarification and was told I could apply for an affiliate membership, making me eligible to receive "about 95 percent of...member benefits." Unfortunately the major benefit I want is award eligibility, which doesn't apply for affiliate members.

What's funny about the entire thing is that in the lengthy list of eligibility requirements at the MWA site is the following: "If your book...is available only in an electronic format...but can meet certain criteria, you may qualify." What those criteria are is not stated, but whatever they are, I guess I don't meet them.

I don't mean to complain, and I fully acknowledge the MWA's right to operate their organization in any manner they choose, but to have a "sliding scale" of eligibility requirements, especailly one that is not quantified or explained, seems to me to be more than a little unfair.

The International Thriller Writers, another professional writers organization and one to which I already belong, has the right idea. They maintain their list of eligible publishers, and if you sign with one of them to release a book you are deemed eligible, whether your book will be available in hardcover, paperback or ebook.

Simple. And fair.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

You Might Think I'm Crazy

It never ceases to amaze me just how closely related music is to writing. A memorable song tells a story just as much as any book does, and in a fraction of the time. A memorable song can melt years away, decades even, placing the listener in a weird sort of time warp that might last no more than three or four or five minutes.

They say the sense of smell is more memorable than any of the others, and that may be true - anyone who has ever gotten a whiff of that distinctive new-car smell will instantly recognize it even if they go years between actually sitting in new cars.

But for my money, music is equally transformative, at least if you are a music-lover. I heard a song on my way to work tonight that I had literally not listened to or even thought about in probably close to thirty-five years (Yes, I know, I'm getting freaking old, but that's not what this post is about, is it, wise-ass?), and the minute it came out of the speakers in my truck I was transported to my late teens.

The song? "It's All I Can Do," from The Cars second album, Candy-O, and if you're under forty you probably don't much remember The Cars, and if you're under twenty-five or thirty, you might not have ever heard of them. But for me, The Cars are one of those bands/artists that are memorable more because of what they represented than for the music they played.

They were huge when I was in my late teens and early twenties, partly because they originated in Boston, near where I grew up, but mostly because for a period of five to seven years you couldn't tune a radio to a rock station and go more than a few minutes without hearing a Cars song. I loved everything about The Cars, from their distinctive song beats to Ric Ocasek's distinctive voice to the fact that my dad just couldn't understand how the hell that crap was supposed to be considered music.

When I was a kid worked a lot outside, earning money by mowing lawns in my early teens and working as a groundskeeper at an estate when I got a little older. I had a small black hard-plastic transistor radio that I liked to listen to when I was working and the minute "It's All I Can Do" started playing in my truck I thought of that little radio and the smell of fresh-cut grass and the feel of the cool, damp earth on my fingers as I weeded flowerbeds. It was awesome.

Yeah, I know. Weird. I can admit that. But that didn't make it any less real, or any less enjoyable. For three minutes and forty-four seconds it was kind of cool being nineteen again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

This Guy's Pen is Deadlier Than a Sword

I had never heard of Irish author Darren Shan until a couple of days ago, but one of the beauties of blogs is that you can be exposed to people and ideas you may not have a chance to otherwise.

Over on the Mulholland Books blog this past Friday, Mr.Shan proposed an idea - whimsically I presume, but who can really say for sure? - that was so cool I wish I had thought of it. As a New York Times bestselling author, he spends some of his time doing book tours in support of his work and in the middle of his current tour he had an intriguing epiphany: "How deliciously, dementedly easy it would be to combine my day job with that of a serial killer!"

Think about it, he says. On a book tour the author rarely stays in the same location more than a day or two, spends his time alone following any signings or other promotional obligations he may have, and has plenty of time on his hands when those obligations have been met. "Weapons would never be a problem, not in the land of the Free. Hell, if the worst came to the worst, every writer travels with one or two sharp pens..."

Then he moves on to the next location to repeat the cycle, all in accommodations paid for by his publisher, leaving the scene of the hypothetical crime behind, moving on to new hunting grounds. "A new town. A new hotel. More fans. More signings. More opportunities in the dark."

Is that a dark fantasy? Sure. Twisted? Yeah, probably. But you have to admit it makes a macabre kind of sense, if your tendency is to probe the dark places that most people prefer to ignore whule they whistle past the graveyard, pretending those rustling noises approaching from behind are nothing more than leaves blowing in the breeze.

Oh, and the best part of the whole thing? Darren Shan writes children's books. I'm not quite sure why I find that so perfect, so freaking funny, but there it is. Undoubtedly Mr. Shan is engaging and interesting and the most well-adjusted guy around, but a serial-killing author who gives in to his homicidal urges on his book tours? That's beautiful...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My, How Time Flies

It's hard for me to imagine that only two-and-a-half months remain before the release of FINAL VECTOR. It feels like just a few days ago I was staring in wide-eyed wonder, like a kid on Christmas morning or a dog watching TV, at the contract for publication of my very first novel, which I signed so fast I almost forgot how to spell my name.

That was almost a year ago now, and the closer it gets to the release date the more it seems there is to do. Life is becoming incredibly busy, but it's a good kind of busy, the kind I have dreamed about my whole life and would not trade for almost anything, the only possible exceptions being my family's health and an anonymous donation of, say, ten million dollars to the Leverone bank account from, oh, anyone.

One thing I have tried my best to maintain is time to work on my latest manuscript, and for the most part, I have been fairly successful. It is challenging, though, to balance new work with everything I am trying to do to give FINAL VECTOR its best possible chance to establish an audience.

The ball has really gotten rolling as the first two author blurbs have come in, one from Sophie Littlefield and one from Vincent Zandri. Both of these accomplished thriller writers volunteered their valuable time to read and blurb advance copies of my book, and both were extremely complimentary, a fact for which I am unbelievably grateful. I don't mean to brag, but I just can't help myself - here they are:

"Allan Leverone raises the stakes with every turn of the page in this can't-put-down tale of ruthless terrorists and cold-blooded betrayal." - Sophie Littlefield

"Written with edge-of-your-seat suspense and precise detail that can only come from a writer who did his research on the job, FINAL VECTOR kept me, a white-knuckle flier, in awe from the very first sentence. The successor to Michael Crichton has landed. And his name is Allan Leverone." - Vincent Zandri

I really didn't intend to gloat, but these two aren't your garden-variety thriller authors. Sophie Littlefield's debut, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, was nominated for just about every "Best First Novel" award going, and ended up winning the Anthony Award. And Vincent Zandri is hot as a pistol right now, having achieved Amazon Bestseller status on each of his last two offerings, THE REMAINS and THE INNOCENT.

Anyway, the point of this post wasn't to brag on myself, as much fun as that is. The point was to illustrate how busy things are getting, and the book doesn't even come out until February!

In addition to working on getting author blurbs, I have been researching review sites and sending my book out to those as well. Medallion's marketing folks have an impressive list of review sites they use, but I figure every bit of exposure I can garner is worthwhile, so any extra review sites I stumble upon are well worth the effort, at least to me.

Also in the works is a book trailer from COS Productions and a blog tour coordinated by Pump Up Your Book Promotions in February and March in support of the release. Add to that my duties as Membership Coordinator for the International Thriller Writers Debut Authors Committee, and my continuing efforts to place one or more of my other manuscripts as well as working on short stories and new novels, and you can see that free time is minimal. In fact, I think it's fair to say there isn't any.

Oh yeah, and I almost forgot my "second" job, as an air traffic controller working traffic into and out of Boston's Logan International Airport. That one actually pays all of the bills, at least for now, so it seems only fair to give it some props as well.

So basically, free time is a thing of the past, as is any second of the day when I am not either thinking of ways to promote FINAL VECTOR or plotting out and executing new material.

But don't feel sorry for me. After years of working and writing and hoping to get someone's - anyone's - attention for my work, I am loving life. More to follow, but for now, it's time to get back to murder and mayhem and betrayal...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Ship Has Finally Come In

I've always known I was headed for something special, that at some point in my life, money was going to flow my way; great gobs of money, more money than I would ever know how to spend. Naturally, I figured I would have to work for it. You know, build a better mousetrap and all that.

Turns out I had it all wrong. You see, I received an email this morning that's going to change my life. Basically, I've been getting played for a sap by those conniving bastards at the World Bank in Washington, DC.

I've only been to Washington a few times in my life, the last time being at least six or seven years ago, and certainly didn't do any banking while I was there. To the best of my knowledge I've never even had a single dealing with the World Bank, unless of course they have a branch office here in Londonderry, New Hampshire with a completely different name.

I know, it's complicated. Maybe the best way to describe the great fortune I'm about to come into is to let the email I received speak for itself. Here are the relevent snippets, with my commentary [in brackets]:

Hello [My name was cleverly omitted, undoubtedly to keep me from being implicated in the event the email fell into the wrong hands],

I write to confess what you are presently going through with my Boss [I already have a boss; one is enough. Unless she is referring to The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, I am mystified as to who this might be]. I was a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I resigned my official duty when I discovered the activities of my colleagues...I suspected some kind of fowl play [I hate fowl play, don't you?].

I discovered that my Boss [presumably not Springsteen; as far as I know he has never been employed by the FBI] was conniving with some top officials in the World Bank [in Washington, not Londonderry, NH] to divert funds approved to settle international contractors and inheritance [Now we're getting somewhere. International contractors and inheritance. That sounds like something that might apply to an air traffic controller and author in New Hampshire]. The World Bank are...deliberately delaying your payment [Sounds feasible; they are a bank, after all].

Well I just hope you believe me, because if you don't, your fund is gone [Dammit! Just when I was so close!]. They have decided to divert your attention [That's not too hard to do; just ask my wife].

The reason why I am giving you this information is because of the fact that I was aware of it and my doctrine does not permit me to withhold such information [It's too bad more people don't have that doctrine]. Please do not give this information to my boss [Not freaking likely, I don't even know Bruce Springsteen, although I have been to one of his concerts] as it may lead to them influencing a total blockage to your payment [Did you hear that? A total blockage to my payment! This is outrageous!].

Upon your response to this message, I shall give you all you need to contact the affiliate Payment Office in UK or US [I'm going to take a wild stab here and say my protector will require...oh, I don't know...maybe my bank account number?].

Yours truly,
Ms. Tracy Sanson,

Well, there you have it. All I have to do is contact this former FBI agent and presumably supply her with my bank account number so she can wire my payment to me before those bastards at the World Bank influence a total blockage on it. I'll be on Easy Street!

Anyway, I think it's pretty clear what needs to be done here. I'm off to email Ms Sanson and get the ball rolling on my payment.

I sure hope it arrives in time for Christmas.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fine Fifteen Authors - Stephen King

Is there a writer of fiction anywhere over the last quarter-century who can honestly say he has not been influenced by this modern master? And I'm not talking about horror writers; Stephen King has long since passed the point where only horror aficionadoes paid attention to his work.

The first Stephen King book I ever read was CARRIE. I didn't like it that much. It was kind of short and I expected it to be scarier than it was; maybe I expected more because of all the hype and there was no way the book could ever have measured up.

But one thing that impressed me, even back then, was how this brand-new author, this overnight sensation, was able to place the reader in the shoes of the young girl at the heart of the story; to make you feel the crushing loneliness of the teen with no friends, the victim who gets pushed and pushed until she snaps and, with the aid of supernatural powers she does not even understand, performs a monstrous act of revenge on her torturers.

After CARRIE I read, in short order, 'SALEM'S LOT, THE SHINING, and THE STAND, enjoying each book more than the last, eagerly awaiting each of King's releases. At times, especially with 'SALEM'S LOT, I was literally afraid to turn out the lights in my room when I put the book down for the night, but that's not what I liked best about Stephen King's work.

The best thing about his work, and I believe the reason a horror writer was able to rise above a genre typically sneered at by "serious" writers and sell gazillions of books in a career spanning nearly forty years and still going strong, is his ability to craft worlds we could all see ourselves living in.

Whether it is a world dominated by vampires (and not the cuddly, sparkly kind), as in 'SALEM'S LOT, or, more than three decades later, a world where an invisible dome mysteriously slams down from the sky and cuts a Maine town off from the rest of the world, the settings are exquisitely crafted and conflicts are realistic and the dialogue rings true. The reader has absolutely no problem suspending disbelief and setting him-or-herself smack-dab into the middle of the action.

And as an inspiration for fledgling authors, you could do a lot worse than emulating Stephen King. His non-fiction book, ON WRITING, is an indispensible addition to the library of anyone who wants to write stories for other people's consumption. The book's title makes it sound dry and boring, but it's not. It's a fascinating look inside the life and mind of a guy who has achieved iconic status among modern authors as well as a nuts-and-bolts guide to crafting fiction.

I find it interesting to see how many authors list Stephen King as an influence. Romance writers, thriller writers, you name it; his name comes up as often as any writer's and more than most in terms of influence, and that's just as it should be.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fine Fifteen Authors - Edgar Allan Poe

This one is no surprise, I suppose, and a natural for someone who loves dark fiction as much as I do. Poe is one of only two authors on my Fine Fifteen list of those who most influenced me to have been born in the 1800's, and the only one to do all of his writing more than 150 years ago.

None of that matters, though, if you appreciate the darker side of human nature as well as the ability to tell a compelling tale. Most of Poe's published work consists of poems and short stories or novellas; he published only one complete novel, THE NARRATIVE OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM OF NANTUCKET in 1838.

Poetry is not really my thing, but some of Poe's shorter works are classics. "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Tell-Tale Heart," among many others, thrilled and chilled me as a kid as much as anything I've ever read.

Plus, his relatively short life and the strange, still-not-completely-understood circumstances of his death at the age of 40 are the sorts of things to intrigue anyone. It has become fairly universally accepted that Poe died of the effects of alcoholism, but it's likely no one will ever know for sure, since his death certificate, as well as all his medical records, have been lost.

In his time, Edgar Allan Poe was known as a literary critic and edited a number of different literary magazines. He was fired from one for being drunk at work, but later reinstated. He married his thirteen year old cousin when he was 26, then later watched her die at an early age.

The guy definitely had some issues. But he was a master at writing the sort of fiction I love, and so he takes a place among my Fine Fifteen Authors.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fine Fifteen Authors - Arthur Conan Doyle

My grandfather lived with us when I was growing up. He died when I was eight years old and one of his things that I inherited was a book - a mammoth red hardcover tome called THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

I have no idea whether the book actually contained everything ever written by Doyle. Probably not, although it certainly seemed big enough. I still have the book, and if I ever get motivated enough to check, I'll get back to you and let you know.

One thing the book did contain, though, was a bunch of short stories and longer works about a deductive genius in turn-of-the-century Great Britain who used his powerful reasoning skills to solve seemingly impossible mysteries.

Sherlock Holmes was the crimefighter's name, as you undoubtedly already knew, and those adventures were just as instrumental in developing my literary tastes as the Hardy Boys. Even though the Holmes stories could not in any way be considered "Young Adult" reading, I dived into them with a vengeance.

I must have read and re-read Holmes's adventures a dozen times each, likely spending more time immersed in that gigantic red book over the course of a few years than my grandfather spent in a lifetime. It was also my introduction to noir, to a world where the protagonist of the story, the "good guy," wasn't necessarily always squeaky-clean.

I'm not sure anyone else would agree with me that these turn-of-the-century stories qualify as noir, but how else would you describe adventures where the protagonist spends his time, when not immersed in a mystery, under the recreational effects of morphine or cocaine? In my sheltered young world, Holmes's extracurricular activities were as shocking as they were fascinating.

I haven't read any of those stories in years, decades actually, and I suspect that some of Holmes's deductions that so amazed me when I was ten years old may not seem so brilliant now. Some of them may not make all that much sense whatsoever.

But my fascination with Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation introduced me to a world of crime and mystery I still love to read - and write - about today. And that's good enough for me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fine Fifteen Authors - Franklin W. Dixon

A lot of the stuff that you get on Facebook is worthless, but I was recently tagged by an author friend with an interesting note. "Fifteen Authors," it was called, and the point of the exercise was to list, right off the top of your head, "the fifteen authors (poets included) who have influenced you and that will always stick with you."

The rules were that I was supposed to list these fifteen authors in no more than fifteen minutes, but since I rarely have fifteen minutes at a time to devote to anything besides work or writing, I went at it over the course of a couple of days.

I posted my results on Facebook, but it occurred to me that it might be kind of cool to devote a few paragraphs to each of my "Fine Fifteen" over the next few weeks.

The first author to appear on my list is someone who doesn't really exist at all. Or, to be more precise, the name is a pseudonym representing a passel of authors who have contributed work to this ongoing series of books. The name is Franklin W. Dixon.

Franklin W. Dixon's name first appeared on a book cover in 1927, on a mystery book titled THE TOWER TREASURE. But this wasn't any mystery book. It was a mystery aimed at young readers, a category that would later become known as the "Young Adult" market. The protagonists in THE TOWER TREASURE were two brothers - the Hardy Boys - and they would go on to be featured in about a gazillion books over the better part of the next century.

Three Hardy Boys books were published in 1927, followed by three more in 1928 and two in 1929, then one more or less every year through 1979. The 1980's were a busy decade for the Hardy Boys, solving thirty-eight cases written by a number of different "Franklin W. Dixons."

The 1990's and early 2000's were the same story, with the Hardy Boys featured in dozens of adventures, the last of which, MOTOCROSS MADNESS, came out in 2005. The series apparently changed names at that time, becoming known as "Undercover Brothers."

"Franklin W. Dixon" leads off my Fine Fifteen list of authors for one very simple reason. He (they?) introduced me to the joy of reading at a young age. I discovered the Hardy Boys and was transported into a world where young boys could follow clues, outwit bad guys, have adventures and solve crimes.

The Hardy Boys didn't care how many friends I had, didn't care that I was short and skinny and too good at school for my own good, at least when it came to getting bullied in the playground. They welcomed me into their mysteries and even though they encountered danger at every turn, they never failed to get the drop on the bad guys in the end.

By the early 1970's I had outgrown the Hardy Boys and moved onto other literary fare, and although I'm quite certain I didn't read every Franklin W. Dixon novel from THE TOWER TREASURE through THE MASKED MONKEY, I made a damned good dent in them.

My mother thought I was crazy, probably for lots of reasons, but most especially because I would read three or four Hardy Boys books at a time, keeping a separate one, open to the appropriate page, in a bunch of different rooms. If I was eating breakfast in the kitchen, I would pick up my kitchen Hardy Boys book and read while I ate. Parents watching something boring on TV, like the news? No problem. I would simply pick up my living room Hardy Boys book and within seconds be hot on the trail of a diamond smuggler or counterfeiter.

I'm sure I would eventually have discovered books and the joy of the written word at some point, even if I had never heard of the Hardy Boys; I can't imagine not doing so. But he, along with another name you probably know, and who I'll get into at another time, turned me on to a lifetime's worth of pleasure, and so Franklin W. Dixon leads off my list of Fine Fifteen authors.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Well, Knock Me Down With a Feather

Boy, you just never know. I found out last week that my dark, dark, dark short story, "Dance Hall Drug," is being nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize by the editor of Dark Valentine, Katherine Tomlinson.

This is extremely gratifying, as you might imagine, but also more than a little surprising, for a couple of different reasons.

First of all, and I've mentioned this before, "Dance Hall Drug" had been languishing on my hard drive for months, rejected by a number of magazines, presumably due to its content/subject matter/general pitch-black tone. There is sex and drugs and murder and betrayal and revenge and madness, all packed into less than four thousand words of fiction.

I had more or less given up on the idea of ever seeing the story in print until last spring, when I heard about this new online dark fiction site called Dark Valentine. I researched the site and decided it might offer the perfect venue for such a disturbing story, so I submitted it, prepared as ever to receive another rejection. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when Ms Tomlinson contacted me to say she wanted to run "Dance Hall Drug," calling it "a nasty piece of work."

I'm pretty sure I've never received higher praise for one of my short stories, considering nasty is exactly what I was going for.

The second reason I was so surprised to hear about the Pushcart nomination is the nature of the award itself. The Pushcart Prize bills itself as "the most honored literary project in America," and has recognized the work of such literary giants as Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver and John Irving, among many others.

In other words, it's the sort of fancy-schmancy award that genre writers like me never sniff. In fact, I can picture some Pushcart judge sitting down with a snifter of brandy in his Manhattan townhouse, opening "Dance Hall Drug," beginning to read, and either dropping dead of a heart attack or getting about two-thirds of the way through the story and crumpling it up into a ball and tossing it into his roaring fire.

But you never know, as I believe I may have mentioned earlier.

I'm not going to lie to you and say that I don't care if I win a Pushcart Prize, despite the fact that until last week I had never expected in a million years to ever be up for one. I'd love to win it.

But there's a lot of truth to the cliched expression, "it's an honor just to be nominated." As I said in an email to Ms Tomlinson after she notified me of the nomination, as an author, my goal is to evoke emotion in the reader. It might be shock or horror or empathy or excitement, but if you read my work and you feel something, then I feel something, too: I feel I've done my job.

Obviously, "Dance Hall Drug" struck a chord with her (and hopefully with other readers as well), and for that I am humbled and grateful. Thanks very much to Katherine Tomlinson for taking a chance on this disturbing story and for believing in it enough to nominate it for a 2011 Pushcart Prize.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Think I Have Writer's Cramp

I've mentioned in the past how things seem to go in cycles as far as writing is concerned, at least for me. I'll go along and have several short stories appear in print more or less at the same time, and then a few months go by with nothing.

Part of that is probably due to my own disorganization. I tend to write my short fiction in bunches, composing several stories over the course of a few weeks and then doing nothing with them for a while, leaving them to season on my hard drive. Then, in a burst of enthusiastic energy - also known by its official medical terminology, manic-depression - I will submit a bunch of stories to various publications at roughly the same time over the course of a few days.

Of course, each publication has their own timetable for responding to submissions. Some are relatively quick to get back to the author, either with an acceptance or rejection, while others, maybe because of the volume of submissions they receive, maybe because they hold stories in limbo while trying to decide whether to use them, take much longer.

But inevitably, when you send stories out in clumps, you tend to see them get published in clumps. This summer has been one of those clumps for me.

It started with my novelette, "Uncle Brick and the Little Devilz," which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of the venerable online mag, Mysterical-E. This was the followup to my Derringer finalist story from the previous summer, "Uncle Brick and Jimmy Kills." Then "The Waiting" appeared in the Sumer 2010 issue of the brand-new, super-cool print magazine Needle: A Magazine of Noir, followed smartly by "Dance Hall Drug," maybe my darkest and most disturbing story ever, which showed up in the brand-new, super-cool online 'zine, Dark Valentine.

This past week, the print magazine Twisted Dreams, not brand-new but definitely super-cool, published their October 2010 issue featuring my story, "Under an October Moon," and just yesterday my dark revenge story titled "Dead and Buried" popped up at the ambitious and always-entertaining online site called A Twist of Noir.

Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it. But I'm also pumped, because the thought of my work being exposed to the readers of all these different online and print publications is both exhilerating and extremely gratifying. After all, the point of submitting your work to publications is to see it in print. Otherwise, you might as well just keep a journal.

Some of this material is available for free, the rest at a very reasonable cost. You probably spent more for that Mocha Grande Cappucino thingy you ordered at Starbucks on your way to work this morning.

But just in case you don't have the extra cash to buy Needle: A Magazine of Noir or Twisted Dreams, don't you worry about it. All you have to do is click on over to my website, www.allanleverone.com, and then navigate to the "Contact" link on the left side of the home page, then sign up for my email newsletter by October 18. Do that and you will be eligible to win a free copy of the latest issue of each of those magazines, and you can read "The Waiting" and "Under an October Moon" to your heart's content.

Think about it: Free Stuff. And you might just find either or both of those magazines to be such outstanding reading you'll want to get the next issue, and the next. Before you know it, you'll toss your TV, trash your iPod, call in sick at work, and curl up in bed, reading.

Just don't blame me if you get fired.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Step Into My Office

One of the blogs I enjoy following is the always interesting "Murderati." The blog's contributors include some of the best and fastest-rising authors in the mystery/thriller genres, including (but not limited to) Tess Gerritsen, Ken Bruen, JT Ellison, Robert Gregory Browne and Allison Brennan, among many others. The material they cover runs the gamut from plotting and characterization to marketing to the occasional timely rant concerning the publishing business or just about anything else.

A month or so ago, some of the authors contributed posts and photos of their workspaces, the areas where these evil geniuses dream up and execute (pun definitely intended) their fictional mayhem. They ranged from entire separate rooms dedicated to the craft of writing, to portions of rooms filled with papers and computers covering what, presumably, was a desk buried somewhere beneath.

The posts were a fascinating look at the physical manifestations of the creative process and pretty much included the semi-sloppy messiness that always seems to accompany creative output. At least that's what I tell myself when my messes get out of control.

Anyway, the posts got me thinking about my own office. It's a little smaller than most of the ones featured by these best-selling authors most of the time, although occasionally it's quite a bit bigger. You see, my office is wherever I happen to sit down and open up my laptop.

Most of my best work is done on my bed.

Feel free to interpret that any way you want, but what I really mean is when I'm working on a novel or a short story it is often while sitting on the bed-covers, pillow propped behind my back, leaning against the bed's headboard. There are several reasons for this, but mostly it's because I need to have silence - or as close as possible to it - when I'm writing, and with a three year old running around our house, sometimes that's in short supply.

I've made my office in plenty of other places, though. When my granddaughter was an infant and my wife was still working, I wrote entire chapters of PASKAGANKEE (a supernatural suspense novel I still have high hopes for) with a sleeping baby perched on my left shoulder, rocking her back and forth while I typed one-handedly on my laptop as it sat perched on top of the stove. Most of the time while it was off. The stove, that is, not the laptop, although based on the lack of success I've had selling the manuscript, maybe the computer should have been off as well.

I have also written short stories and novel chapters sitting in my daughter's room on the floor, leaning against the wall in the space her futon used to take up until I rented a van and drove it to her college dorm. Once in a great while I write while sitting on the living room couch, although most of the time that only happens when nobody else is home.

Plenty of work gets done when I am on breaks at my day job as an air traffic controller. It's not always easy to switch gears from talking to airplanes, all of whom are trying to occupy the same space, to writing about chaos and murder and mayhem, although now that I think about it, it's often not all that hard, either. The point is, wherever I can find a free conference room or unused office on my breaks, I open up my laptop and it instantly becomes my office, at least until my break is over.

Oh, that reminds me. My break is over. Time to close up my office and get back to work.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Down in a Hole

It's the dead of night, miles from anywhere, in the middle of a lonely forest, and a man is hard at work. He stabs at the ground with a shovel, tossing dirt, excavating a hole roughly the size and shape of a human body. The man has bad intentions, that much is obvious. Who digs a body-shaped hole in a secluded area under cover of darkness otherwise?

What the man doesn't realize is that he is not alone. Behind him, screened from view by trees and undergrowth, stealthy and silent, a lone figure watches him work. The hole will not go empty. The only question is who will fill it, and why?

This is the premise of my short story titled, "Under an October Moon," featured now in the outstanding dark fiction magazine, Twisted Dreams. It's available in print form for $7.55, and as a file download for just $2.55, and let me tell you, this is a pretty damned good deal if you like original, disturbing dark fiction.

The magazine also features original artwork, reviews, and an interview with actor Brad Greenquist, veteran of movies and appearances in TV series such as Stargate SG1, Alias, The Practice, and Walker, Texas Ranger as well as many others.

Here's a small taste of my story, "Under an October Moon":

He leaned on his shovel and examined his project with a critical eye. The original plan called for a grave roughly four feet deep, six feet long and a couple of feet wide. That was before Ray had realized just how much goddamned work was involved in digging a grave out here.

Now he pictured Linda dropping into a four foot long hole - its current size - and concluded these new dimensions would work just as well and would save him a lot of effort. He would simply break her legs with the shovel once she had fallen into her permanent residence, then fold them back over her torso before filling in the hole.

What difference would a couple of broken legs make, really? Linda would be dead, or nearly so, so it's not like she would complain. And what if she did? Who the hell was going to hear her?

I think it goes without saying Ray's project doesn't go exactly as planned. Check out Twisted Dreams and "Under an October Moon" if you love dark fiction, especially with Halloween right around the corner. Just be careful walking through the woods.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Wall Street Journal Gets the Story Half Right

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal online edition Sunday titled "Authors Feel Pinch in Age of Ebooks," regarding the difficulties being faced by authors of so-called "literary" novels in the rapidly-changing environment of bookselling and publishing early in the 21st century.

If you're not versed in the difference between "literary" novels and "genre" novels, this is how I view it: Authors of "literary" works win the snooty literary awards; they get recommended by Oprah for her book club; they write stories where nothing much really happens.

Authors of "genre" fiction win awards, too, they're just not the snooty ones. Their awards have mostly been developed by purveyors of the different genres (horror, mystery, thriller, romance, etc) to recognize the outstanding authors and works that might otherwise be overlooked. Those authors don't often end up on Oprah's couch, but they do write stories where lots of stuff happens.

Anyway, as a writer of genre fiction I am naturally predisposed toward it. And any media attention toward authors and the changing publishing landscape is a good thing. But a few things in the WSJ article rubbed me the wrong way. Here are a few examples:

- WSJ: "It has always been tough for literary fiction writers to get their work published by the top publishing houses."

- My response: You should remove "literary" from the above sentence. It has always been tough for all fiction writers to get their work published by the top publishing houses. It's the law of averages. Lots of people write manuscripts; relatively few of them can be published. It's like trying to make the major leagues - lots of people play baseball, very few of them at the big league level.

- WSJ: "...publishers who have nurtured generations of America's top literary-fiction writers are approving fewer book deals and signing fewer new writers. Most of those getting published are receiving smaller advances."

- My response: Again, why limit the point to literary fiction? If you remove the "literary" from the quote, it is just as applicable. Smaller advances and fewer book deals for all but the blockbuster authors are the norm as publishers try to figure out how the hell they're going to survive.

- WSJ: "...fewer literary authors will be able to support themselvs as e-books win acceptance, publishers and agents say."

- My response: I have a couple. First of all, remove the "literary" again from the above quote. If it's true for literary authors, it's true for all authors.

Second, of course publishers and agents would say that. Those savvy to the new technology might disagree. Ask JA Konrath, who has trumpeted to the world the success he has achieved marketing his work on e-book platforms, making more money faster in this new reality than he ever did as a member of Big Publishing. Of course, JA Konrath probably qualifies as the ultimate "genre" writer, making him one of those unwashed masses of authors the WSJ seems intent on ignoring.

- WSJ: "The new economics of the e-book make the author's quandary painfully clear: A new $28 hardcover book returns...15%, or $2.40, to the author. Under many e-book deals currently, a digital book sells for $12.99, returning...typically 25% of that, or $2.27, to the author."

- My response: Again, I have a couple. First, someone in editing at the WSJ forgot to add "literary" into the above statement, and for that I applaud them, even if it was by accident. The quandary for the "literary" author is the same as the quandary for the "genre" author.

Second, the above statement is true as far as it goes. But the real question is this: How many books will you sell at the $28 price and how many will you sell at the $12.99 price? It is entirely possible that the author will benefit more from 25% royalties on a $12.99 book than from 15% royalties on a $28 book. It depends how many more sales you will make at the lower price. JA Konrath would argue, and I would agree, that the author would benefit the most from an even lower price, inflating sales far beyond what they would otherwise be, as readers take a chance on a book for which they have to spend just a few dollars.

Third, the advantages of signing with a "Big" publisher, especially if only e-books are involved, might be negligible at a 25% royalty rate. Many, if not most, smaller, independent publishers offer a far higher royalty rate on e-books than 25%. Most are at least 40% and many are even higher. Konrath's deal with the brand-new Amazon Encore nets him a royalty estimated far north of 50%, although he is prevented contractually from specifying the exact number.

- WSJ: "...many editors are no longer committing to new writers with the expectation that their story-telling skills will evolve with the second, third, and fourth books. In the past, many literary authors were able to build careers because of such patience..."

- My response: Ah, why bother. I'm sure you get it by now.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Coming Soon to a Reviewer Near You

I found out yesterday that the ARCs for FINAL VECTOR will be going out in October to review sites and to those authors who have very graciously agreed to read the book and possibly provide a blurb if they like it. The book is in the final stages of layout and formatting, which Medallion says will be completed by the end of September, so I'm assuming the ARCs will be on their way to their destinations earlier in October rather than later, but that's just a guess on my part.

I have to confess to feeling equal parts nervousness and excitement. I'm thrilled - no pun intended - that the process is moving along; that the rubber is finally beginning to meet the road. After all this time, we're arriving at the point in the process where I will soon begin to get some feedback on the product I have worked so hard to create.

I know I'm supposed to react to the news of my ARCs going out with practiced indifference - the late, great Walter Payton used to say, "Act like you've been there before," after scoring a touchdown - but the fact of the matter is I haven't been there before. This is all new to me. And unbelievably exciting.

Undoubtedly guys like Barry Eisler and Tom Piccirilli find out the ARCs for their latest book are almost ready to go out and say, "Yeah, okay, great. I wonder who's gonna get kicked off Dancing With the Stars tonight?"* while unsuccessfully stifling a yawn and putting the finishing touches on their latest bestseller. For me, though, it's Happy Dance time. And I can't dance.

There is, in the back of my mind though, a small but growing ball of nervous tension. What if nobody likes the thing? What if the reviews start to come in and they're, you know, universally, historically, cosmically bad? I understand not all my reviews are going to be great. After all, everyone has different tastes and even the most successful authors receive the occasional poor review.

But what if they all suck? What if they're really, really bad? William Hung bad? What if I become the laughingstock of the literary equivalent of Youtube which, I suppose, would be - what? Publishers Weekly?

I know that's not going to happen. FINAL VECTOR is quality work and I'm extremely proud of it. I'm just a little nervous; that's all. And excited. Did I mention the ARCs are going out soon?

Man, this process is excruciating.

* Official disclaimer: I have no idea whether Barry Eisler or Tom Piccirilli watches Dancing With the Stars. Not that I'm passing judgment if they do. I still love their work.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Scratch This Itch

I just finished a short story yesterday, a noir piece I wrote in two sittings called "The Ticket." This story was inspired by one of my co-workers winning half a million bucks a couple of weeks ago on - get this - a scratch ticket.

Now I will be the first to admit I'm not much of a gambler - in fact I have a funny story about something that happened to me when we vacationed in Vegas a few years ago that I might tell you if you buy me a couple of drinks - but I had no idea it was actually possible to win that much money on a single scratch ticket. My daughter won seventy-five dollars on a one-dollar ticket last winter and I was amazed at that, but five hundred grand? Wow.

Anyway, after my co-worker won that big prize (Congratulations Bill, don't forget the little people when you go Hollywood) it got me thinking - which is almost never a good thing - suppose the guy who won a big, fat, completely unexpected jackpot on a lottery ticket wasn't a middle-class family man with a steady, mostly respectable job?

What if the guy was a leg-breaker named Beck, working for a low-rent loan shark, wracked with guilt at doing the only job he's suited for, the only job he's good at, who comes into all this money and looks at it as his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to escape the crew he is working for and make a brand-new start at a respectable life?

Sounds good, right? How can you not root for this guy? Who hasn't looked at his own life and thought how much better it would be if he just came into [insert completely unreasonable amount of money here] dollars?

There's only one problem. Beck's boss, Fat Tony Fillichia, knows about Beck's million-dollar score (For the purposes of my story, I thought a million bucks sounded better than five hundred grand. Sorry about one-upping you, Bill) and he wants his share of it, which Beck is not about to give up. It was his ticket, after all.

Anyway, that's the premise of "The Ticket." I'm not about to let you in on how it ends, to do that you'll have to read the thing for yourself, and to do that, I'll have to get someone to run it in their magazine, and to do that, I have to get back to work and start the submissions process.

Hopefully someone will see this story as worth publishing, because I'm really happy with how it turned out. If and when that happens, I'll be sure to let you know where you can find it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering September 11

September 11 is one of those watershed days in American history, an event that is so universally remembered and understood it has no need for further explanation or introduction when the subject comes up. It's not September 11, 2001, it's simply September 11. Appending the year to the date is completely unnecessary. It's like saying Pearl Harbor, Hawaii or the Watergate Hotel, where Nixon's presidency fell apart. These things are just understood.

So, like most Americans old enough to recall the horror if September 11 with any amount of clarity, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when American flight 11 struck the north tower at roughly quarter to nine on a beautiful, clear morning, and then when United flight 175 struck the south tower about fifteen minutes later.

I was working the Plymouth Sector at Boston Approach Control, the radar facility serving Logan International Airport, where both of the ill-fated jets departed. One of my best friends and my carpool partner was working the Initial Departure Sector and was one of the last people ever to speak to the pilots of both airplanes on an air traffic control frequency.

I remember the entire seqence of events vividly, as if it happend only yesterday, rather than nearly ten years ago. The morning was bright and clear and when the supervisor ran into the control room and announced an airplane had hit one of the WTC towers, my first thought was, Bullshit. Impossible. There is no way an airplane could have hit that huge building in these weather conditions.

My initial assumption was that someone must have detonated a bomb in the building. It even never crossed my mind that anyone would intentionally fly an airplane filled with passengers and crew into the side of a skyscraper. That seems oddly naive now, knowing what we learned about the nature of terrorism on that awful day nearly ten years ago, but it's the truth.

I kept working. At just after nine o'clock, the same supervisor came back into the control room and announced a second airplane had hit the south tower. And that was when I knew. That was when everybody knew. We were under attack from a faceless enemy with an (at the time) unknown motive. My first thought then was, Oh-oh. It's terrorism and if two planes have been taken over, how many more are out there, waiting to be flown into buildings?

We didn't have to wait long for our answer.

Soon the order came to clear the skies, an unprecedented and technically challenging task that was completed in an impressively short amount of time. The volume of traffic at Boston wasn't a whole lot busier than it would normally have been while everyone was being diverted to the closest available airport; we would have been pretty busy anyway. The only real difference that I could see was in all of the foreign call signs of the overseas flights headed to JFK that now had to land at Boston.

Before long the airspace above Boston, and everywhere else for that matter, was empty, filled only with emergency flights, law enforcement flights, and the military fighter jets dispatched to patrol over all high density areas. It was unsettling and disturbing. You could almost picture tumbleweeds blowing down a dusty road.

I worked a midnight shift that night and it was more of the same. I sat in front of an empty radar scope and watched the targets of the two fighter jets circle in wide, irregular patterns over an area from roughly Providence, Rhode Island to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. If the pilots felt the need to descend into my airspace (14,000 feet and below in roughly a thirty mile arc around Boston) to check something out, they did it, without asking and without a radar handoff. Without even talking to me.

If you know anything about ATC procedures, you know that is simply not done. But it was done on September 11 and for about two days afterward. Why not? There was nobody else in the sky.

After a couple of days, traffic began getting released ever so slowly, a trickle at first, beginning the long process of getting passengers, flight crews, and airplanes back where they belonged. Things started to get back to normal, aviation-wise.

But they never really got back to normal, at least not to what was considered normal before 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001.

They never will.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Revenge is Sweet - and Deadly

Ever been in a situation where someone hurt you so badly you just had to get even, just had to make a statement, and the more emphatic the better? Of course you have.

But what happens if the person you need to get even with isn't someone you know? What happens if that person is completely anonymous and the only way you can find him is to search, night after night, in the only places you can imagine he might be?

And what happens if, against all odds, you finally find the person who hurt you, and after years of planning, are able to extract the revenge you've dreamed about for so long?

That's good, right? But what if the revenge you have planned is so . . . twisted, so . . . depraved that it goes far beyond all boundaries of justice and decency? What then?

That's the premise of "Dance Hall Drug," my short story featured in the Autumn 2010 issue of Dark Valentine, the classy new dark fiction ezine that has just gone live with their second issue. I wrote this story a while ago and had serious doubts about it ever getting published due to the disturbing nature of the tale, but kudos to the publisher/editors of Dark Valentine for their willingness to run with it.

Here's a snippet:

Halfway through her second drink - another club soda, of course - Carrie caught a glimpse of a young man who made her skin crawl and her stomach clench in instinctive fear, and immediately she knew. The terrifying visceral reaction made it clear. This might be the guy. Tall, close-cropped brown hair, snappy dresser. Good with the ladies. Great dancer. She felt a jolt of panicky electricity surge through her body as she jostled her way through the shifting crowd for a closer look. She couldn't take her eyes off him.

Her drink sloshed over the sides of the glass; she didn't care. Men and women glared at her as she elbowed her way past, and she didn't care about that, either. She had to get a better look at the tall guy with the close-cropped brown hair, because if it was who she thought it was-

Carrie's breath caught in her throat. Her eyes widened. Her stomach tried to evacuate its contents but she choked down the nausea, swallowing hard.

It was the guy.

This is one cool magazine and I'm thrilled to have found such a good home for "Dance Hall Drug." One of their classy touches is that each story is accompanied by outstanding original artwork. In the case of "Dance Hall Drug," the artwork was contributed by an artist from the UK named Mark Satchwill, whose work has been exhibited in London and Dartmouth, England. I couldn't be happier with the results of his work, as I believe it captures perfectly the dark and disturbing elements of the story.

And of course, mine isn't the only story in the Autumn issue of Dark Valentine, a magazine which bills itself as "fiction on the bleeding edge of a black and bleeding heart." In total, there are 23 creepy tales to check out, with all but two of them featuring original accompanying artwork.

The best part? This 149 page magazine won't cost you twenty bucks, or even ten bucks, or even a single lonely dollar bill. It's free. That's right, free, as in it won't cost you a thin dime. A red cent. Nothing. It's available as a PDF download, meaning you can read it on your computer, load it onto your Kindle, whatever.

If you'd like to check it out, here's the link to the download. Did I mention it's free?

And if you do check out "Dance Hall Drug," don't worry. I'm really not as disturbed as you're going to think I am.


Friday, September 3, 2010

And the Winner Is...

My first-ever contest has come to a conclusion and I would like to congratulate winner Chris Haviland, who will receive, whether he wants to or not, one free copy of every book I ever publish, from now until the end of time. Or until I keel over, whichever comes first. As I said in the email I sent Chris, this may or may not be something to celebrate, depending upon my ability as a writer, but he's stuck with me now.

All he had to do to become eligible to win was go to my website, www.allanleverone.com, and sign up for my twice-yearly (or four-times yearly, depending upon activity) email newsletter. That was it. Simple.

But although the contest is over and the winner has been selected, it's not too late to get in on the action for next time. I have more things planned for the coming months and years, all involving free stuff, and all of it will be going to those readers with the foresight to sign up for my newsletter.

Some of the things I'm planning include a free digital copy of FINAL VECTOR when it's released in February, as well as free copies of the various print magazines and anthologies containing my short fiction, not to mention other things still in the planning stages. Don't ask, because I can't tell you about them yet.

And this is mentioned on my website, but it's worth restating here as well: Your name and email address will NEVER be shared with anyone else for ANY reason. It will not be sold, given away, lent, borrowed, or hinted at. Ever. For any reason, as I may have already stated. I have no desire to infringe upon your privacy and Vertical Response, the company handling distribution of the newsletter, does not either. Period.

So don't worry if you entered the contest and didn't win, or if you meant to enter and forgot, or if you had never heard of the damned contest until right now. Go to my website, click on the "Contact" button on the left side of whatever page you happen to be on, and sign up for my newsletter. Do that, and you don't have to worry about entering the next contest; you'll automatically be entered for that one and every following one.

Plus, you will be able to keep up with all the information you ever wanted about new book releases, short story publications, both online and in print mags, and anything else that might come up. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You Want Syrup With That?

My mother lives in Brunswick, Maine, roughly two-and-a-half hours from my home in Londonderry, New Hampshire. With a full-time job, writing, three kids and a granddaughter who lives with us, it's hard to get up to see her as often as I should, but this past Monday I was cruising up the Maine Turnpike, mid-morning, coffee in hand, when it occurred to me I was hungry. I had driven an hour-and-a-half, after all, with no breakfast.

Luckily for me, there's a Burger King at the traveler's plaza at Exit Three, so I pulled in, grabbed an order of French Toast Sticks, and hit the road again. They were pretty good, too.

Does everyone else know they serve maple syrup with those things? Because I sure didn't. But it wasn't a problem until I had finished eating, at which point I packed up my napkin in the little box the French Toast Sticks came in and stuck it in the Burger King paper bag and rolled the bag into a ball to throw it on the floor of the car...

...and ruptured the little packet the syrup came in. It oozed out over my hands, flowing thickly onto my lap and under my butt, soaking into the seat. At seventy miles an hour. In the passing lane.

By the time I had pulled back across traffic into the breakdown lane and got the car stopped - getting sticky syrup all over the steering wheel and turn signal, by the way - my jeans looked like, well, you can use your imagination if you really feel the need.

I found a sweater one of my daughters had left in the back seat, sopped up as much of the syrup as I could, all with the traffic zooming by a couple of feet away, and then sat on the sweater and drove the rest of the way to Brunswick, where I walked into Sears and bought a new pair of jeans. Then I drove to my mother's house.

I think I would rather have gone hungry.


There's only one week left to enter my website contest to win a free copy of every book I ever publish...check out the details at www.allanleverone.com...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Can I Quote You on That?

Have you ever taken your hat in your hand and gone to someone to ask for a favor but had nothing to offer that person in return? Oh yeah, and to make it just a little more interesting, you barely know the person?

That's the situation I find myself in as I begin the process of seeking out authors to provide blurbs for FINAL VECTOR. Publication is now less than six months away, which means the time is now to line up potential blurbs.

You know what blurbs are, right? They're those quotes from authors whose work you love that convince you to buy another author's book. For example: "The suspense in FINAL VECTOR builds relentlessly, ticking like a time bomb to a final explosion. Be sure to set enough time aside to read this thriller in one sitting, because you won't be able to put it down!" - James Patterson.*

*James Patterson hasn't actually given me a blurb for FINAL VECTOR, although if he had, it would be a cool one, wouldn't it?

No, the above quote was the product of my own imagination, which is growing increasingly feverish as February inches closer. The point here is that I really want to get a few quotes from other thriller authors which will aid in promoting this debut offering from a more or less unknown commodity (me) to the general public.

All of which brings me neatly back to my opening paragraph. I've had the opportunity to meet a few of my favorite authors in passing; meetings which undoubtedly meant much more to me than to them. Others I've never even met. And yet here I am, asking some of them to take time out of their busy schedules, time which could be spent writing or promoting their OWN work, to read my book and write me a (hopefully) favorable quote.

It's nerve-wracking and a tough sell, especially when I have nothing to offer in return. A blurb from me for their next novel? Why would they want that? I'm the guy nobody's ever heard of. Hopefully that will change, but until it does, my recommendation for their book doesn't mean much.

As you might imagine, the success rate is pretty low for this type of undertaking. But writers are nothing if not relentlessly hopeful. Why else would you spend thousands of hours working on a manuscript that, in all likelihood, no one besides your wife is ever going to read?

And so far, perhaps surprisingly, I have met with some success. Two authors - people you have heard of if you read thrillers - have agreed to read a copy of FINAL VECTOR and, if the novel is worthy, provide me with a blurb. One has made it clear that the offer is contingent upon freeing up enough time to do it, which is all I can ask.

I'm not going to name these two authors yet, just in case things change and the offer doesn't work out for whatever reason. I don't like to count those chickens before they're hatched, you know what I mean? But I will say this: For these two very generous people, if I'm ever in a position to help them out (not that either one of them is likely to ever need my help) they will get it without question and without reservation.

In the mean time, does anyone have James Patterson's current email address? I think I must have his old one; he hasn't returned any of my emails...
Less than two weeks remain to have a chance to win a free copy of every book I ever publish! Check out http://www.allanleverone.com/ for details...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jab Yourself With This Needle

One of my favorite authors is Tom Piccirilli, a guy who is able to write well in a number of different genres and who writes hard-hitting prose, but also manages style and sensitivity at the same time. It's not an easy thing to accomplish.

After reading several of his noir works and falling in love with the work of him and others in that genre (sub-genre?), I decided to try my hand at noir, something I had never had the confidence to do.

When the editors of the brand-new noir magazine titled Needle: A Magazine of Noir, held a little flash fiction contest, looking for noir stories up to one thousand words with all entries to be posted on their website, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. The result was "Family Ties," a tale of a guy with a history the rest of his family would just as soon forget, but he's not quite able to do so.

I got some pretty positive response to "Family Ties" and, flushed with success, decided to try another noir story, a longer one, to submit to Needle for possible publication in an upcoming issue. That issue has arrived. Needle Issue #2 is out and available now, and included in it is my story titled "The Waiting," about a gang of criminal misfits who take on a new member, a smoking hot, ice-cold chick named Gina, who may or may not be exactly what she seems.

If you like noir, or crime fiction, or preferably both, I invite you to check out the Summer issue of Needle. You won't be disappointed; I guarantee it. Just to whet your curiosity, here's a little snippet of "The Waiting":

Gary leapt to his feet, his rickety wooden chair crashing to the ancient, cracked and pitted linoleum floor behind him. He began walking slowly toward Bobby, who lay propped up against a pillow on one of the two ratty twin beds. Bobby's eyes were slits as he watched Gary approach. He didn't move a muscle.

I played hockey in high school and one of the few things I have left from those days is a beat-up old equipment bag I take with me wherever I go. It's falling apart at the seams and has seen better days - it's a lot like me in that regard - but it's mine and I always try to keep it close. Right now, it was on the floor at my feet looking like the world's rattiest nylon and leather puppy dog.

I reached down and unzipped it, not taking my eyes off Gary and Bobby. Bobby's mouth had twisted into an ugly sneer. He knew he had gotten under Gary's skin with the comment about Deanna and seemed proud of himself. He was right, though. Deanna did look like a walking skeleton. I figured the fact that a skank like her could earn a living stripping at The Little Devilz was a testament to just how scummy most guys are, especially when you add alcohol to the mix.

I rummaged around in my bag and found what I was looking for at the bottom, under a spare pair of jeans and my favorite Guns N' Roses T-shirt. I immediately felt better. The Glock 21 radiated power and felt reassuring in my hands. I wondered whether the two squabbling idiots would notice me lift it onto the card table, but I needn't have worried. They only had eyes for each other.

You may notice, Gina isn't in this portion of the story, but she plays a prominent role in how the whole thing turns out; you'll have to take my word for that. Or you could order a copy of Needle: A Magazine of Noir for yourself...


There's still time to enter my website contest! From now until the end of August, simply go to www.allanleverone.com, click on the "Contest" button on the left-hand side of the home page, and enter your email address in the space provided to sign up for my twice-yearly newsletter, and you will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of every book I ever publish!