Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Famous New Friend

If you're a genre reader like me, you undoubtedly recognize the name Lawrence Block. He's been making a living as a crime writer since the mid-1960's - since the 1950's if you take into account books he wrote under pen names - and has created the memorable characters, Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr and the amiable, introspective contract assassin Keller.

Yeah, that Lawrence Block. The legendary one, the guy the Mystery Writers of America selected as a Grand Master in recognition of his achievements in the field all the way back in 1994. The guy who, even a half-decade after publishing his first novel, will have new material hitting the bookshelves this year.

Lawrence Block friend-requested me a couple of days ago on Facebook.

I've been pretty aggressively expanding my social networking over the last year or so, hoping to use the tools of the electronic age to help publicize my debut thriller, Final Vector, and I have to say the experiment has been wildly successful, giving me the opportunity to network with fellow authors as well as potential readers.

I now consider people friends despite the fact I've never actually met them. I've renewed long-dormant relationships with people who in an earlier age would simply have faded out of my life. I've developed contacts with people I have then worked with in various aspects of promoting my work.

So the fact that another author would friend-request me is not all that surprising. It happens pretty frequently and I do the same thing quite a bit myself. But Lawrence Block? The guy is, literally, a legend in the crime fiction world.

Here's the background. Last week Blogcritics ran an interview with me which was picked up by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in which I was effusive in my praise of, you guessed it, Lawrence Block. You may not have noticed, but I'm a pretty big fan.

Well, apparently Lawrence Block reads either the Blogcritics web page or the Seattle newspaper, because late in the afternoon on Thursday I signed into Facebook and discovered a friend request waiting for me. From Lawrence Block. In it, he thanked me for the complimentary words I had for him in the interview.

I think that bears repeating. Lawrence Block thanked me for the kind words. To put that in context, I like to think of it like this: The guy who has written 61 novels (as far as I can tell) thanked the guy who has written one novel for some nice things he said.

That just blows me away. I understand he is just a person like you or me, but how easy would it be for someone as accomplished as he is to read the words of praise and nod sagely at another peasant recognizing the king's greatness? Instead, he took the time to seek me out, friend-request me, and add a personal note to the request.

My only regret is that there was no way of saving that note. Once I accepted the friend request, it disappeared. However, I sent Mr. Block a message on Facebook telling him what a huge fan I am - basically drooling like a lovesick teenager, sort of like I am now - and he was kind enough to answer my message with one of his own, which will remain in my Facebook messages forever, or until I accidentally destroy my account through my technological ignorance.

I'm not going to get into what was discussed, I'll only say this: I now know Keller's next target of assassination.

Just kidding, but I'm sure I'll know soon, now that Lawrence Block and I are, you know, practically best friends.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Savior

The amazing Patti Abbott announced a flash fiction contest on her website a week or so ago and the moment I saw it I knew I had to enter. The guidelines? An eight hundred or so word story whose only requirement is that it must contain the phrase, "I really don't mind the scars."

The contest deadline is February 28, but since this is a day off for my FINAL VECTOR blog tour and the story is done, I figured I'd go ahead and post it tonight. So here ya go:

The Savior

I'm not a monster.

Sure, the newspapers paint me as one; so do the TV reporters. Those arrogant fucks from Nightline made me out to be the worst thing to hit the world since frigging Jack the Ripper. But they don't understand. I do what I do to save the girls, not to victimize them. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I know I'm doing the right thing. So I keep doing it.

My latest project is a beauty, too. She's down on Washington Street, dressed in about six ounces of strategically positioned Spandex, stretched over her best body parts like Saran Wrap. Or spraypaint. She struts her stuff for the usual display of desperate losers cruising Washington while I watch from the shadows provided by the entrance to one of those welfare check-cashing places that seem to populate every corner of neighborhoods like this.

A steady drizzle blurs the scene, wrapping it in a translucent gauze but doing nothing to slow the parade. Middle-aged businessmen in family cruisers, old geezers in Buicks, young guys out for some strange; they're all there.

And my girl's working it for all she's worth.

Does it piss me off? You're goddamn right it does. She doesn't belong out here with the diseased, the addicts, the homeless. She's better than that; I can tell. Which is exactly why I'm here, uniformed ironed crisply, pounding the pavement on my night off.

Every so often a dirtbag wanders past my hiding place and jumps, startled by my presence, curious why I'm just standing here doing nothing. But their interest in my business wanes quickly when they get a good look at my blues and I flash my trusty flat-eyed cop stare.

That's one of the many reasons I love being a cop.

Another is that it gives me the freedom to save my girls, which, after all, is why I'm here. I decide it's time to stop observing and start saving. I step out of the shadows and approach the hooker at a brisk pace while her attention is diverted by a minivan full of teenagers hooting and hollering, whipping out my shield when she turns around and placing her under arrest for criminal solicitation.

She sputters and complains that I have no probable cause to make an arrest and of course she's right, but what the fuck do I care? It's not like I'm taking her to jail, anyway. The other pros scatter at my sudden appearance and the pimps melt into the background and the johns disappear like magic and suddenly it's just me and my girl.

Up close, she's even more striking than I had imagined - silky blonde hair, large, surprisingly clear blue eyes, delicate facial bone structure. She's exquisite. Her only visible flaw is a pair of thin ragged blood-red scars, one running diagonally across her forehead, the other winding its way down her right cheek, both undoubtedly the result of punishment from her pimp for some transgression.

But I don't really mind the scars, they stand in stark contrast to her natural beauty, bringing it out with their ugliness and emphasizing it.

I drag her around the corner and down the sidewalk and toss her into the specially customized back seat of my car. By the time she realizes she's not in a real police cruiser it's much too late for her to do anything about it. We're at my home within thirty minutes and I'm able to introduce my latest find to her new digs.

They're pretty comfortable, too, once you get past the iron bars and the grates on the windows, set high up on the concrete walls of my underground bunker. The space is divided into three separate units, giving me the luxury of saving three girls at a time.

Right now, though, my new friend - Crystal, she says is her name, which I know is one of those bogus hooker names but, again, what the fuck do I care? - is the only occupant. I find I'm going through the girls faster and faster; why that is, I'm not really sure. But it doesn't matter, there is an endless supply of girls to be saved.

At the moment Crystal is half angry and half afraid, not fully grasping the particulars of her new reality. I'll let her calm down and come back later. By then I'm sure she will be only too happy to show proper appreciation for being saved from a lifetime of prostitution.

I'll allow her to demonstrate that appreciation for a few days and then I'll use her up and dump her in the woods out back with the rest of the girls I've saved.

Then, in a few days, I'll go out and save another one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

FINAL VECTOR purchase links

They say life is all about the journey rather than the destination, don't they? I mean, that was a song lyric, right? So it's gotta be true.

If that's the case, it's been one hell of a memorable journey trying to reach this destination: publication of my first novel. But we're here now, sort of, and it's a feeling of excitement and satisfaction tinged with nervousness like I've never experienced before.

Why did I say, "we're here now, sort of?"

I'm glad you asked. FINAL VECTOR is out. It's been released. It's available at a number of retailers, including Amazon, Mobipocket and

It's also NOT available yet at some other retailers, such as Barnes and Noble and Borders. The distributor for Medallion Press, IPG, says that FINAL VECTOR will begin being available at these places soon, but exactly what - or when - that means, I'm not sure.

Also, if you go to Amazon and search "Final Vector," as I've done so many times I'm wearing the finish off those keys on my laptop, your result will include a bunch of stuff, none of which includes my book. I have an email into Amazon's tech folks asking about the problem, but I'm told it could take up to three days to get an answer.

So the upshot of all of this is that yes, FINAL VECTOR is released and available, and yes, I would love it if you'd give it a try, but if you own a Kindle and want to download it, you need to know the specific purchase link, for now at least. Again, this is the link which will bring you to Amazon's FINAL VECTOR page. Searching it on the site will get you nothing except frustration.

So, really, while we've arrived at our destination, the journey continues. Sort of.

This has been quite an adventure. I can't wait to do it again.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Peasants are Revolting

Like all revolutions, the one currently shaking publishing to its core started innocently enough, with some changes that initially seemed harmless to the status quo and a few true believers carrying signs and shouting slogans.

E-books. Publishers scoffed at the notion that any but the most dedicated techno-geeks would shell out their hard-earned cash for an electronic tablet dedicated to nothing but words.

But people started buying them. Lots of them. And they began filling their hard drives up with books, plenty of them from big-time authors, but also a lot from authors they may not have been as familiar with. Folks who in the olden days would have been known as "mid-listers."

And then a mid-lister named Joe Konrath became the poster child for this revolution, which suddenly began gathering momentum like a locomotive careening down the side of a mountain. He released a bunch of backlist titles himself electronically, and then he released a brand-new novel electronically without a publisher, and he had the nerve to promise readers of his blog he would keep them informed of the results.

And the results were astonishing. The poster child began making money. Lots of it. More than he had ever made with his traditional mid-list publishing deals. And he huffed and puffed and boasted and proselytized and before long other authors began wondering if maybe they shouldn't follow suit.

And the revolution was on.

Two days ago The Authors Guild published a piece on their blog illustrating how the 75/25 royalty split (75% to the publisher, 25% to the author) of net proceeds in the traditional contract offered by most major New York publishing houses represents nothing more than a significant pay cut to the creator of the work - the author.

If you'd like to see the entire piece and learn how the numbers were generated, you can check it out here, but examples were given and numbers were crunched and one thing became clear - authors are taking a beating with the 75/25 split.

Now, on his blog just this morning, novelist Terrill Lee Lankford announced he had reached a difficult decision - he was ending discussions with a publishing house over the terms for his latest book and would publish it himself electronically. Why? The 75/25 split.

Despite the offer of an advance Lankford termed "very good money," he reasoned that "by the time I finished the book in question the cash would be gone. And by the time that book 'earned out' at a rate of 3-1 in the publisher's favor in e-book sales, the publisher would have seen a small fortune without noticeable expense. And we would be saddled with a deal that would probably haunt my family long after I was dead and gone."

The upshot, of course, is that another mid-lister has decided to follow Joe Konrath into the wilderness of electronic self-publishing. But here's the thing - for a wilderness, it's getting pretty damn crowded out there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blog Tour Date Tomorrow

I'd like to thank the good folks at Between the Pages for allowing me to interview my main character from FINAL VECTOR, Nick Jensen, today. Here's hoping he survives the standoff againt the terrorists; he seems like one hell of a nice guy.

It's back onto the blog tour bus now for the trek to The Story Behind the Book, where I will be guest blogging tomorrow. I hear the chicken wire is in place, just in case - like in The Blues Brothers - the natives get restless and start throwing stuff. I'd love to see you there.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Delayed Gratification

You know how in my last post I compared releasing your first novel to losing your virginity? How both were things you could only do once? Turns out I was wrong about that. Turns out you actually can release your debut novel more than once; or at least you can have more than one release date.

I woke up this morning excited about the February 1 release of FINAL VECTOR, certain I was on the verge of selling millions of copies of my debut thriller. Or at least dozens. Or maybe a few. One, definitely. I checked Amazon and discovered . . . drumroll, please . . . wait for it . . . nothing.

It turns out even my conservative estimate of one potential sale was wildly optimistic. There were no sales, because the book was not on the site! So I waited a while and I checked again. Still nothing. I checked Barnes and Noble. Nothing. Went back to Amazon and, well, you get the idea.

After a few emails and a couple of lengthy phone calls with the folks at Medallion Press, my publisher, it turns out the release of FINAL VECTOR has been delayed for a few days due to problems with the ebook file conversion at the distributor.

I know what you're thinking: what the hell does that mean, and why didn't I find out sooner?

Answers: I'm not quite sure, and I'm not quite sure.

I received a series of effusive and, I believe, sincere apologies from the folks at Medallion for not keeping me in the loop better (which I accepted), as well as explanations about overworked file conversion houses who prioritize their work based upon client and publisher size and pull (which I sort of understand).

At any rate, the upshot of all this is that the book will become available for purchase at various outlets - Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc - at different times over the next several days. So, while Medallion's official release date for FINAL VECTOR is now February 11, it is entirely possible, even likely, that you will be able to get the book before then, depending upon the retail outlet.

Confused yet?

Don't worry about it; so am I. But trust me when I tell you I will be shouting from the highest rooftop, or at least from this blog, the moment I learn my book becomes available at each of the various bookselling sites.

In the meantime, my blog tour in support of the book that kind of, sort of, almost exists continues tomorrow with a guest post and book giveaway at Between the Pages. I know, there's nothing to give away! But there will be, recent events notwithstanding, and I promise I will get the free copy to the winner the instant it rolls off the presses, or the Innerwebs, or, you know, whatever the hell an electronic book rolls off.

Seriously, thanks so much to everyone who has expressed an interest in FINAL VECTOR. I truly appreciate your patience and your support. Nick Jensen will face off against those terrorists any day now.