Sunday, June 27, 2010

Edit This, Part 2

I finished the first round of edits on FINAL VECTOR today and am preparing to send the revised manuscript off to my editor with a mixture of excitement and nervous wonder.

I'm excited because, first of all, I seem to have managed to work in the redlined manuscript and make changes to it without somehow striking the wrong key and sending the entire book into the electronic netherworld. Dealing with editorial changes in the Word format was something I had never done before and I had visions of some epic disaster befalling the book thanks to my ignorance.

It looks as though I more or less avoided that fate.

I'm also excited because, as a debut novelist, I've never before worked with a professional editor. To say Lorie Popp at Medallion is a miracle worker would be a massive understatement. Already, after this one round of edits, the book is tighter and more exciting, with the suspense building steadily toward the conclusion. She has shown patience and encouragement while still ruthlessly slashing repetitive and unnecessary passages. The result is stunning.

I'm nervous because I don't know what to expect next. Presumably another round of edits will follow, with Ms Popp examining the new, revised manuscript and likely suggesting more changes. My assumption is that most of the major issues have been addressed, but having never done this before, I really don't know.

My worry about meeting the June 30 deadline to return the manuscript to Medallion turned out to be pretty much groundless. I suspended work on my new novel for a couple of weeks to devote as much time as possible to these editorial changes and ended up finishing with a couple of days to spare.

So now, after I hit "send" on the email returning the package to Medallion, I will resume work on the new book, wondering how long it will take before I hear something back regarding the changes. Probably it will take a while, which will be difficult because I have to admit to a certain curiosity about what my editor will think about the rewrites.

The process of preparing a novel for publication is a long one, with a lot of downtime. But it's also very exciting, especially when you see your vision shaping up and turning into something of which you can be excited and proud. I'm curious to see what happens next.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Psst...Hey You...Wanna Read a Good Story?

I've mentioned this in the past, but it never ceases to amaze me how things seem to happen in bunches with this writing stuff. I went months with no news on either the progress of FINAL VECTOR in the editing phase, or any of the various publications to which I had submitted short stories.

Then, in short order, I got the working copy of my novel back from my editor with extensive love notes regarding various suggested changes and edits, to be completed in two weeks and returned to the publisher, and I have heard from no less than three magazines, all of which have chosen to publish my work!


First comes Mysterical-E, a quarterly online mystery/suspense magazine which accepted my story, "Uncle Brick and the Little Devilz" for inclusion in their Summer 2010 issue. This is the longest of the three, considered a novelette by the standards of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

This upcoming Uncle Brick story is a followup to "Uncle Brick and Jimmy Kills," which appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Mysterical-E and placed third in this year's Derringer Award voting for Best Novelette, so it has big shoes to fill. The Uncle Brick stories are sort of a lighthearted look at the Private Eye genre that were inspired when my wife told me everything I wrote was just too damned dark.


Next I heard from the editors of Dark Valentine, a brand-new quarterly online dark fiction magazine, complete with outstanding artwork accompanying each story. They accepted "Dance Hall Drug" for inclusion in their #2 issue. "Dance Hall Drug" is one of my favorite stories, not to mention by far the darkest thing I've ever written.

In their acceptance, one of the editors said, and I quote, "Well, Allan, this is a nasty piece of work - and I mean that in the nicest way . . ." If you've ever been particularly annoyed at a member of the opposite sex and have enjoyed a few pleasurable moments of fantasy in which you did . . . let's say . . . bad things to that person, check this one out. But be warned, it's not for the squeamish.

I find it interesting, in a deliciously ironic sort of way, that one of my most lighthearted stories, "Uncle Brick and the Little Devilz," was accepted right before my darkest, "Dance Hall Drug." I'm not sure what that says, if anything, but there you go.


Finally, I was contacted this afternoon by the editor of Needle: A Magazine of Noir, informing me they were accepting my story, "The Waiting," for inclusion in their second issue, Summer 2010. This is particularly exciting to me because the first issue of this print magazine included such highly regarded noir authors as Dave Zeltserman, Hilary Davidson, Keith Rawson and others.

In "The Waiting," a criminal crew takes on a new member, a smoking hot, ice-cold chick who may not be quite what she seems, and who might just bring down the entire team.

Needle: A Magazine of Noir is a print magazine, and thus "The Waiting" is the only one of the three stories which will not be available for free online. If you'd like to check out my work risk-free, the issues containing both of my first two stories will be live soon. And don't worry about missing them, I'll be sure to let you know when they're out, and will include a link to each one, you know, just to make your reading experience as easy as it can be.

I'll be bragging about Needle: A Magazine of Noir when that one comes out, too, don't worry. I was planning on running a separate blog post on each of the stories when their issues were live, and still will, but I was just too excited not to spill the beans right now.

Thanks for your attention, and we now return you to your previously scheduled programming.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Father's Day Tribute

My father was an avid reader. Rare was the time when he wasn't immersed in a book, although what he chose to read was miles away from my interests. When I was a kid I devoured fiction, horror, mysteries and thrillers, while my dad looked at that stuff as a waste of time. He preferred non-fiction, specifically history and biographies, more specifically the history of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

I would read Stephen King while he was analyzing Pickett's Charge. I would read Peter Straub or Edgar Allen Poe or Arthur Conan Doyle while he was learning new facts about the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.

In short, our interests as far as reading was concerned were not even close. I suppose that held true for just about everything as I reached my teen years and reached the mistaken conclusion I knew everything, while the man I had thought knew so much knew nothing.

But the fact of the matter is I learned an appreciation for the written word from my dad, and even though the books we read were completely dissimilar, books were something we had in common even at a time when it seemed we had nothing else.

As I grew older it became increasingly clear that I was the one who, as a teenager, knew nothing and he was the one who held the knowledge I should have been soaking up. Eventually we became close again, and the man I idolized as a young child became the man I idolized as a young adult.

My dad died in January, 1998, years before I got serious about writing, so he never had an inkling that his son might eventually become a published author. And even though I know he would have ridiculed me endlessly for the choice of genres for my first book - the thriller - I am equally certain he would never have stopped bragging about his son, the author.

Happy Father's Day everybody. Enjoy the time with your dad if he's still around. You never know how much time you might have left with him.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Edit This

I signed the contract with Medallion for FINAL VECTOR late last December, and the month or so after that was a flurry of activity. There was the contract to sign, the Pre-Publication Title Sheet to fill out, the cover art to be designed (not that I had much to do with that, beyond my initial input). I was excited and busy.

Then, after that, there was some drama regarding the format of my book. It was initially to be released in mass-market paperback, but with the rapidly changing dynamics in the publishing industry all but destroying the market for mass-market paperbacks unless you are a well-known bestselling author, the format shifted to e-book instead.

That format shift caused me some heartache initially, as you know if you've read some of my past posts, but I came to understand the situation from the publisher's point of view and have come to embrace the e-book as a way to potentially sell a lot of books and get my name out there among thriller fans.

The point is, in that first three months or so after signing my contract, there was a lot of activity, book-wise. Since then, though, things quieted. I've kept busy, of course, working on a new manuscript, the first draft of which is over one-third complete, and submitting short stories, of which two have been accepted for publication and more to come, hopefully.

But on the FINAL VECTOR front, not much. Until two days ago. That's when I received the proposed changes and edits to the manuscript from my editor at Medallion. I figured I would be hearing from her soon, but I really had no idea when, this being my first book and all.

So now I understand the term "under deadline." I've got a lot of material to go through, with a date of June 30 for the whole shebang to be returned to the publisher. The problem, of course, is that this is all new to me. It's the first time I've ever had any contact whatsoever with a professional editor, and learning all of the notations and how to work with the edited manuscript in Word format has been . . . interesting, to say the least.

It's taken me the better part of a day-and-a-half just to figure most of that stuff out, but after a couple of emails back and forth with my editor, I think I'm now good to go. Is it just me, or can you hear a clock ticking?

There is some leeway with the June 30 deadline, according to my editor, but as a brand-new author, the last thing I want is for my publisher to get any kind of notion that I might be difficult to work with or that I can't meet a deadline. So June 30 it is.

Sleep's overrated, anyway, right?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

And Now, For Something Completely Different

I submitted a short story today to a brand-new quarterly dark fiction magazine called Dark Valentine and shortly after I did, something happened that I have never before experienced. Literally within minutes of sending the email containing an attachment with my story, I received a personal response from one of the editors.

I'm not talking about one of those auto-response email things that says something like, "Thank you for your submission to [insert name of magazine here]. We consider all of our submissions with the seriousness they deserve, which means you may not hear from us for months or possibly years. Maybe not ever. Again, thank you for submitting to [insert name of magazine here]."

It wasn't like that. This was an actual email from an actual editor, introducing herself, referencing comments I made in my submission regarding the magazine, and advising me that it might take up to a week to respond to the submission, and hopefully that would be all right.

For a minute I thought I was being Punk'd. I looked around for Ashton Kutcher.

A week? If that's all right?

A week, as you know if you've ever attempted to submit anything of any length to a magazine, publisher, agent, or just about anyone in the publishing industry as a whole, is like the blink of an eye. Publishing is an industry in which time passes with excruciating slowness, like glacial progression or anything under consideration by the U.S. Congress.

I have no idea whether my story will be right for Dark Valentine. From what I can tell, it should fit well with the magazine's general dark and disturbing theme, but who can say for sure what they are looking for?

I'll tell you this, though. In a business where most of the contact between authors and editors, or authors and agents, or authors and publishers, tends to be cold and impersonal, this was such a refreshing change it makes me root for the survival and success of Dark Valentine whether they ultimately accept my submission or not.

Honestly, the last twenty-four hours have been rough, personally, and this completely unexpected occurrence made my day.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Not Too Thrilled

I attended a couple of days of Thrillerfest, the annual convention/conference/celebration of all things thriller thrown by the International Thriller Writers, back in 2008 and was looking forward to returning this year up until a few months ago.

Thrillerfest is held at the Hyatt in Manhattan every year in mid-July and is extremely well-attended, well-run, and an excellent opportunity for an aspiring novelist to do a little networking with some of the biggest names in the thriller genre as well as pitch a manuscript to literally dozens of agents.

My plan was to make the drive down to New York again this July, but then something happened that made me reconsider - I signed with Medallion Press for publication of FINAL VECTOR, my debut thriller. I'm still unagented, and attending Agentfest next month in order to try to interest an agent in my latest manuscript is extremely tempting.

However, if I delay a year and instead attend Thrillerfest 2011 next July, I can go as a published author as well as member of the International Thriller Writers and maybe have the chance to appear in a panel discussion or workshop or some other such fancy-dancy thing.

The theory I'm going with is that the exposure as well as the networking possibilities would be much greater if I have a book to flog than if I don't. And this year I don't, since FINAL VECTOR's release date isn't until February. Plus, if I go next year I will have the chance to hopefully sell some books and gain some readers, and that sounds awfully appealing, too.

I know what you're thinking - why not just go both years? But with a day job and a family to support and three kids to put through college, doing the Thrillerfest thing this year and next year would be financially irresponsible, which is a fancy way of saying we don't have the cash for that.

So next year it is.

But I have to admit, I received my latest ITW Thrillerfest update today and it's going to be awesome. Plus, I learned recently one of my favorite authors, Tom Piccirilli, will be making the trip from Colorado to New York for this year's Thrillerfest, and it would be way cool just to shake the guy's hand and maybe ask him to sign a book or two for this groupie.

Oh, well. Pretty soon Thrillerfest 2010 will be just a memory and I can begin planning the trip next year. Maybe by then I'll even have a second book to promote...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

So This is How the Dinosaurs Died, Part 3

Want more proof that the world of publishing - specifically, the way we consume books - is transforming before our very eyes? No? Here's some anyway, in the form of a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal! Is it possible to get any more buttoned-down, traditional, navy-blue-Brooks-Brothers suited than the Wall Street Journal? Maybe so, but if there is, I can't imagine where.

Here's what the Wall Street Journal had to say in their report about digital self-publishing at last week. "Fueling the shift [away from traditional publishing] is the growing popularity of electronic books, which few people were willing to read even three years ago. Apple Inc.'s iPad and e-reading devices such as Amazon's Kindle have made buying and reading digital books easy."

The report goes on to say that although overall U.S. book sales fell nearly two percent last year, e-book sales were up nearly three hundred percent, according to the Association of American Publishers. "E-book sales could reach as high as 20% to 25% of the total book market by 2012, according to Mike Shatzkin, a publishing consultant, up from an estimated 5% to 10% today."

I tend to disagree with those estimates. I believe the ongoing shift in readers' preferences will occur even faster. Digital reading devices are growing exponentially in popularity, and if sales of Apple's iPad even come close to approaching what the company is forecasting, I believe e-book sales could approach 20% to 25% of total book sales by the end of this year.

Think about it. Two to three years ago the question was whether digital book sales could ever become anything more than a fractional blip on the radar screen of total sales. A year ago the total was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2%. A year ago! Now the number is up around 10% and growing rapidly. Is twenty percent of total sales likely by the end of this year? I say it's not just likely, it's inevitable.

More from the WSJ piece: "Some publishers fear that one of the big technology companies now distributing e-books will compete for the industy's best-known authors, by offering advances in a bid to gain market share."

Translation: The big New York publishers are scared shitless that Stephen King will abandon his traditional publisher and self-publish a mammoth bestseller somewhere down the line, taking advantage of a profit margin many times greater than even he has been able to achieve through the traditional, ink-on-paper publishing model.

The focus of the report is on digital self-publishing. I've done a lot of research on the publishing industry in my attempt to learn as much as I can on the way to publication, and in traditional publishing circles, self-publishing a book has always been the quickest way to ensure irrelevence among agents and publishers.

That may not be as true now, as evidenced by Boyd Morrison's success self-publishing THE ARK and earning himself a traditional publishing deal after garnering impressive sales and reviews. But even if self-publishing is still frowned upon, there are many Indie publishers taking full advantage of the digital revolution, my publisher, Medallion Press, being one of them but certainly not the only one.

The revolution is here. It's inevitable, just as the sea change in how we read is inevitable. Even the Wall Street Journal, traditional to the core, can see it. Think about that for the sixty seconds it takes to download a new book onto your Kindle.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Whose Day Was it to Watch the Boss?

Thinking about the BP oil spill in the Gulf and the incredibly stupid statement by CEO Tony Hayward, who told NBC Sunday, "There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back."

In addition to the fact that the statement is undoubtedly untrue - anyone whose living depends upon the formerly crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico surely "wants this thing over" more than Hayward, who, between salary and bonus reportedly makes nearly 2.5 million Euros per year. That's, what, somewhere in the neighborhood of three million dollars annually?

Contrast that with charter captains and fishermen and hotel and restaurant employees who depend upon tourism and who, if there's no fishing or tourism to be had, will all be making considerably less than three million dollars a year. Like, say, nothing.

The bloated ego on display by a man who, at various times since the Deepwater Horizon blew up has said the environmental impact of the disaster would be "very modest," and that the spill was "relatively tiny" in comparison to the size of the ocean, is unbelievable. To then go on national television and declare it's about time to end this thing because it's becoming a distraction at the country club is outrageous.

To be fair, Hayward has since apologized. Duh.

It must have taken, oh, I don't know, maybe three seconds for BP's overworked public relations specialists to see the quote and go into overdrive working on the retraction. Make that five minutes: Three seconds to see the quote and pass out from the shock of seeing their boss's idiocy on public display, ninety seconds to regain consciousness and stagger to the computer, and three-and-a-half minutes to formulate some sort of half-assed excuse and patently insincere apology.

People have been calling for Hayward's resignation; that seems to be a fait accompli - he's a dead man walking, the only question is when the BP Board of Directors will decide the time is right to pull the trigger. The real question is, why isn't anyone going to jail?

Think about it - if eleven people had died because of your negligence, don't you think you would be cooling your heels in a jail cell by the time six weeks had passed? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Hayward should be held criminally responsible, only that someone should be.

And perhaps in time, someone will be. The focus thus far has been on the efforts to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf, all of which have failed as miserably as Tony Hayward's attempts at damage control. But if it can be proven the people at the highest levels of the BP food chain were aware of the lack of quality control that resulted in this disaster, then corner offices and the insulation provided by wealth and influence should not be allowed to prevent justice from being done.

Time will tell. In the meantime, Tony Hayward shouldn't worry too much. He'll have plenty of time to "get his life back" after BP cuts him loose. And he won't be CEO-ing again any time soon - he's going to be as toxic in the corporate world as the water getting flooded with oil out in the Gulf.