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.


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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...
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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...


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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Is it Still Considered a Revolution if Everyone's Doing it?

Okay, this may not be big news in the sense that BP getting the Gulf oil leak plugged is big news, or the Bachelorette picking between those two guys on that Not-So-Reality show is big news, but if you have been paying attention to the ongoing revolution in book publishing, this is almost that big: According to Publishers Weekly, Dorchester Publishing "has dropped its traditional print publishing business in favor of an ebook/print on demand model..."

This isn't a case of some small upstart publisher failing to make a dent in the print market and switching to ebooks at the drop of a hat. Dorchester has been around for forty years, making them the oldest independent mass-market book publisher in the United States. Primarily known for books in the romance genre, Dorchester also publishes books in the horror, thriller and Western genres as well as their award-winning Hard Case Crime line of mysteries.

Dorchester is the real deal.

They have also been losing sales at an alarming rate - According to the Publishers Weekly story, 2009 showed a drop in retail sales for the publisher of an astonishing 25%, and this year's sales results have been even worse, although exactly how much worse was not specified.

To deal with this new business reality, effective with the release of their September titles, Dorchester will offer their books in ebook format, and "some ebooks that are doing well in the digital marketplace will be released as trade paperbacks...however, the company will not do any more mass market paperbacks for retail distribution."

Back in March, when Medallion, my publisher, advised me they were pulling out of the mass-market paperback business and instead offering FINAL VECTOR as an ebook, I felt aggrieved. It seems like that happened five years ago, not five months, considering how much the publishing landscape has changed since then. It turns out Medallion was just ahead of a very sharp curve.

Lots of small/independent publishers have done it, Medallion Press has done it, and now Dorchester Publishing has done it. Can the big New York publishers be far behind? How long can they continue subsidizing all their losing titles with the one or two big hits a year from their mega-superstar authors?

If you're a reader and you haven't yet availed yourself of a low-priced Kindle or Nook or iPad, you'd better hurry up and get yours before you find yourself with nothing to read...


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Monday, August 2, 2010

Best Laid Plans

So the time has come to send the requested partial and synopsis of THE LONELY MILE to the agent who requested it. In the world of literary agenting, July seems to be the month for vacations, so her request was to receive the material on or after August 5.

No problem, I thought. I'll print out the synopsis and 75 page partial on Monday the 2nd and then put them in the mail on Tuesday the 3rd. It was over a month ago when I made that plan and it seemed like a reasonable one at the time.

Until last night, that is, when I checked my computer files and discovered that I never actually wrote a full synopsis for this particular manuscript, meaning that to keep to my plan I would have to write a full synopsis in one day, not an impossible task but not something I had really planned on doing, either.

I don't know if you've ever tried to distill an 85,000 word book down to ten or fifteen pages - probably not, unless you have a real desire to torture yourself - but I have to tell you, it's not easy and it's definitely not something that you can do in a hurry. Fortunately I had today off on my Evil Day Job, so I spent the entire day synopsizing (Synopsising? Synopsifying? Synopserizing?) and I finally finished around seven o'clock tonight.

I followed that up with composing a cover letter and then preparing to print out the whole shebang. Which was when I discovered the black ink cartridge in the printer was just about empty. Figures.

Against all odds, though, I found another ink cartridge in the printer cabinet and from there things went swimmingly. The synopsis and 75 pages printed out nicely and are anxiously awaiting being sent out tomorrow. The only drawback to this busy day was that I was unable to get any work done on my work in progress, a paranormal thriller titled FLICKER.

God, this writing life is glamorous.


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