Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Sides of the Coin

Talk about your yin and your yang. The very same week Barry Eisler - the prototypical legacy publishing sensation - announces he is passing up a half-million dollar advance from St. Martin's in order to self-publish his next thriller electronically, Amanda Hocking - the protoypical self-publishing sensation - announces she is passing up self-publishing in order to accept a two million dollar advance from (who else?) St. Martin's for her upcoming four-book series.

Now, setting aside for a moment the observation that things can't be too horrible for legacy publishers, or at least for St. Martin's, if they're waving around amounts of cash that most of us can only fantasize about (Unlike at Dorchester, where they apparently don't have two nickels to rub together), it amazes me how much the writing and reading world seems to have rallied around one or the other of these two highly successful authors.

If you believe in legacy publishing, in the value of gatekeepers, in the old system, you need only point to Ms Hocking to prove your assertion. Here's a newcomer who has made roughly 17.24 gazillion dollars over the last year by foregoing the traditional route and what does she do? She jumps at her first chance to climb aboard the SS Tradition!

If you believe legacy publishing is a sinking ship, doomed to failure just as surely as the Titanic was doomed to slip under the waves of the North Atlantic after DiCaprio and Winslet cavorted abovedecks, you need only point to Mr. Eisler to prove your assertion. A longtime, highly successful member of the legacy publishing old guard and what does he do? He abandons the old guard to climb aboard...well...I'm about out of nautical metaphors, but you get the point.

The Interwebs have been in an uproar over this development all week, with authors and readers alike choosing sides like teenage girls ready to rumble over Team Edward vs Team Jacob. But here's what I wonder: Why all the conflict, especially among writers?

I suppose I can understand the traditionally published professionals feeling threatened, with people they see as not having paid their dues raking in amounts of money that would make Bernie Madoff blush. And I suppose I can understand the self-publishing proponents feeling hurt that their biggest star is abandoning them to sign with the enemy. But shouldn't the goal be opportunity for authors? And isn't that what we have right now?

I feel for Amanda Hocking, despite the wads of cash being thrown at her over the last year, because she doesn't seem the least bit interested in being anyone's banner-carrier. She strikes me as a nice young woman who just wants to write. And now she has the opportunity to do exactly that.

It's been suggested she signed with St. Martin's to gain some sort of validation, a charge she denies, and I believe her. But even if that's what she did, who cares? As someone who has tried for years to break into traditional publishing, I can tell you it's not easy to let go of the notion that you can have the biggest impact - and can only be seen as a true professional - by signing on the dotted line with one of the Big Six publishers.

Whereas Barry Eisler relishes conflict - he makes no bones about his political beliefs and doesn't care if he loses readers because of it - Amanda Hocking, from what I can tell by reading her public statements, would just as soon avoid it, unfortunately for her, since she is the face of self-publishing, for better or for worse, at least for now

So, who was right and who was wrong? Why can't we conclude they are both right? Both individuals did what they feel was best for them at the respective stages of each of their careers. Why can't we just leave it at that?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review - EVERY SHALLOW CUT, By Tom Piccirilli

The nameless first-person narrator in EVERY SHALLOW CUT has lost everything. He's a has-been writer who never was, carrying around his last uncashed royalty check of $12.37 like a talisman. His wife has left him, his home has been foreclosed, his books aren't selling, his pride is gone.

When a group of punks mug him on the street, the narrator snaps, taking down all three young men and stealing their money. With nothing holding him in his ex-wife's home state of Colorado, he starts a cross-country trek back to his birthplace of New York with just the stolen cash, a gun and his dog, Churchill, hoping to reconnect with someone, anyone - his brother, his first love, his long-ago best friend, his agent. The question is, will he find what he's looking for before his breakdown is complete?

Tom Piccirilli is a master of noir. The desperation and hopelessness he writes about don't just live on the page, they are living, breathing monsters that bludgeon you about the head and shoulders, forcing you to pay attention, demanding you JUST FREAKING LISTEN.

EVERY SHALLOW CUT is a noir masterpiece. He calls it a "noirella." I call it an exposed nerve, a red and raw wound that will punch you in the head and keep smacking you until you look straight into the eyes of your own fears and insecurities. It's the best thing I've read this year.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Five Things I'd Like To Tell My Coffee Server

I'm a coffee lover. Maybe even a coffee-holic. I admit it unabashedly, knowing that depending upon what study you choose to believe, drinking coffee is either good for you, provided you don't overdo it (I do), marginally bad for you, as long as you drink it in moderation (I don't), or worse for you than smoking crack while juggling steak knives in the middle of an LSD trip.

In any event, I'm not about to stop drinking coffee, which is why this web piece, titled "13 Things Baristas Won't Tell You," caught my eye. Now I have to be honest, where I get my coffee, the folks behind the counter probably don't know what baristas are, which is okay because neither do most of the people in front of the counter, including me. I drink old-fashioned black coffee, so what the hell do I need with a barista?

Anyway, the source for the information contained in the above piece is listed as "Baristas from Starbucks and independent cafes and coffee carts..." I have no problem with Starbucks, theoretically speaking, aside from the fact that most of the people who frequent the chain strike me as coffee snobs, looking down their noses at those of us who go to Dunkin' Donuts.

I'm not quite sure why that is, although I suppose when you pay the prices they charge at Starbucks, you should at least buy the right to feel superior to someone. Personally, I would rather pour used motor oil down my throat than drink the overpriced, bitter, overcooked stuff they serve there, but everyone's taste is different, and in any event, my purpose in writing this post is not to rag on any other coffee lovers. I prefer to be inclusive.

Reading the 13 Things My Barista Won't Tell Me convinced me that a rebuttal was in order, although I do agree with some of the points they made. Here, then, is my list of 5 Things I'd Like To Tell My Coffee Server:

1) I understand you have seven more hours in your shift before you can sprint to the parking lot and hurry away, but I actually have to get to work.

Putting the attention to my order somewhere below examining your fingernails and adjusting your underwear on your priority list isn't just annoying, it's downright rude. Also, shuffling around like you're walking the green mile to the electric chair isn't helping me make it to work on time, either.

2) I realize the person in front of me in line was a rude asshole, but I don't know him/her, I'm not in line with him/her, and treating me like a rude asshole as a result of his/her actions doesn't help anything.

Lots of people are rude. It's a fact of life. They are self-absorbed and seem to feel you are unworthy of their respect because you don't work a job they feel is important enough. None of that is my fault, and it chaps my ass when I'm polite and respectful and you treat me like I'm the gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

3) I am more impressed by your ability to get my order right than your perceived ability to understand the entire order without writing it down.

I drink black coffee. It's hard to conceive of any order simpler than, "I'd like a large black coffee, please." Yet I can't tell you how many times I've walked into work with my coffee and opened it up, only to discover I will be drinking a large REGULAR coffee. Please, for the love of God, pay attention, and if that's asking too much, just WRITE DOWN MY ORDER!

4) Before you shuffle off like you're walking the green mile to the electric chair to begin filling my order, it would be nice if I was finished ordering.

I love enthusiastic service, but when you turn around and walk away after I say, "I'd like a large black coffee, please," assuming that I would ONLY like a black coffee, it is not just annoying and rude but slows down the entire process for the people in line behind me.

5) Rolling your eyes like I've just told you that you're grounded for the next month when I say I'd like something else after you shuffled away like you're walking the green mile to the electric chair when I ask for a large black coffee, please, does not constitute any kind of customer service.

That would seem to be self-evident, but apparently needs to be said.

There you have it; my response to the "13 Things Baristas Won't Tell You." I'm not saying that every time I get coffee it borders on an international incident, but every one of the things listed above has happened either to me or someone in line around me at one time or another.

Coffee deserves better. It's a an exciting, invigorating brew made from running hot water over ground beans, for crying out loud! Please, let's all come together and give coffee, as well as coffee lovers, the respect and attention they deserve.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Darkness Will Fall This September

Tom Piccirilli. Jeff Strand. Brian Keene. J.F. Gonzalez. Greg Gifune. Harry Shannon.

What do these outstanding horror authors have in common? They've all had work published by Delirium Books, one of the premier publishers in the horror collector's market. And, as of this coming September, so will I, when my novella, Darkness Falls, will be offered in a 150 copy limited edition hardcover release as part of Delirium's outstanding collectible novella series.

In Darkness Falls, former bestselling author Tyler Beckman returns to the tiny New Hampshire town he fled nearly twenty years ago after the brutal murder of his parents and sister by a scythe-wielding maniac. He landed in New York, writing a half-dozen bestselling gothic horror novels, earning riches and fame before losing it all in a blizzard of drugs, alcohol and women.

Now, in a desperate last-ditch effort to regain what he has lost, Tyler rents the home of his family's imprisoned killer, determined to confront demons best left buried. Immediately his writing flourishes, and in a frenzy of activity, Tyler begins pounding out the novel that will put him back atop the literary world.

But a malevolent force is at work in Darkness Falls, one which is timeless and evil and unstoppable. And it has Tyler Beckman in its sights.

September is the release date for Darkness Falls, and if you're not able to snag one of the 150 limited edition hardcovers, it will also be released in all ebook formats.