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Friday, March 28, 2014

5 QUESTIONS FOR THRILLER AUTHOR JONAS SAUL

Jonas Saul is an International Bestselling Author with loads of talent and a core group of readers who’ve stayed with him throughout his career.  It’s this loyalty that has kept him on the bestseller list and he rewards them with quality writing and massive production.  It seems like he releases a new book every week, but that’s just the jealousy talking.  I first met Jonas a few years back when he entered a writing contest I’d run through this blog.  It was quite obvious even back then he was someone to keep an eye on.  Now he’s one of the top producers in the business.  He was kind enough to remember my name and spend a few minutes to play 5 questions with me.

1- Your Sarah Roberts character is unique.  Tell us about the series.  Who is Sarah Roberts, and how is she different from other protagonists?
Sarah is an Automatic Writer. Her sister, raped and murdered many years ago, works through Sarah by giving her messages of future crimes. Sarah has become a vigilante but with a unique twist. She talks to the dead to save the living.
The Sarah Roberts Series began when Sarah was eighteen years old in Dark Visions, Book One. Now in Book Ten, The Antagonist, which is available for preorder and releases April 22, shes twenty five years old. During the course of the series, Sarah has matured, and grown into a woman. As the readers move through each book, they get to grow with her.
Shes a realist. She tells it how it is and never bluffs. She lives by certain rules that have kept her alive and she has a unique ability to see through people as shes quite aware that everyone has an agenda. Learn the agenda, understand their motivation.

2- Talk about the Mafia Trilogy.  How did this come about, and will it spawn any other books?
The Mafia Trilogy came about one day when I was reading the newspaper. I had read a piece about a UPS driver in New York who had hit a young girl with his truck after she had run into traffic. The incident was deemed an accident by local authorities. A little while later, that UPS driver was found dead by an execution style hit.
The little girl was the daughter of a reputed mob boss in New York.
I was taken aback by this article so I wrote the Mafia Trilogy. It starts with the son of a Mafia boss in Toronto being killed by accident and the fallout that came after that. Except in this case, the Mafia suffers great losses.
I have no plans to write anything further in this series.

3- Youre an extremely prolific writer.  Tell us when you were able to convert to writing full time and how many hours a day do you actually spend on your craft?
For over twenty years I ran several privately owned retail stores. In early 2010, I sold off the last of them as I wanted to pursue writing as a career. My wife offered to keep working outside the family home, so I made her a deal:
Give me one year. At the end of that year, I will be making enough money from my writing that she would be able to quit her job and never have to work again.
She agreed to this deal and quit her job a year later, early 2011.

I began writing full time in April 2010 and have been doing so since. By May of 2011, my wife and I took off for a two-year tour of Europe where I could write freely and use exotic locations in my novels. I now have two novels set in Italy and two novels set in Greece.
When Im immersed in a novel, I write 5000 words per day, six days a week. During that time, I start in the office by 9:00am and usually finish by mid to late afternoon.
When Im not writing new words, Im on social media, Im researching the next novel, or performing edits on the last one. Currently my output is six novels per year as a minimum.

4- You and your wife travel all over the world together.  Where is your favorite location to visit?
We spent two years traveling through eight European countries. For me, the eleven months we lived in Greece were my favorite. Italy is a close second. But so is Denmark. Three months in Denmark wasnt enough. Were already planning a trip back to Europe for a month or two this summer with Copenhagen, Athens, Rome, Amsterdam, and Florence as destination cities.

5- What is your next project and whats on the horizon for Jonas Saul fans?
For now, Im focused on the Sarah Roberts Series. I have The Antagonist coming out in April and then The Redeemed due in June. After that, The Haunted should be available by August and The Unlucky, Book Thirteen in the series, should be out for Halloween.
My goal is to have 50 Sarah Roberts novels by the time Im 50 years old. Ive got five years and just over thirty more books to go. At six novels per year, Im still on target.
Also, Im attending the Thrillerfest Conference in New York at the Grand Hyatt in early July this year. Seriously looking forward to that!
There are a few other things in the works with one LARGE announcement coming soon, but I cant elaborate on that just yet.
Thank you Gary Ponzo for taking the time to work with me on these questions. Its an honor to know and work with such an accomplished author as yourself. You have my respect.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

ARE PAPER BOOKS REALLY NECESSARY?

As I listened to a song by The Postal Service the other day I couldn’t recall whether it was a new song or it was something they’d released a decade ago.   Normally I would go to my CD collection and check out the case to search for the title of the song, but it wasn’t there. It happened to be one of the very first songs I downloaded on iTunes, so physically it wasn’t there and somewhere deep down inside I felt deprived.  Those CD’s stacked on the shelf in my office are a symbol of my cultural being.  Part of my soul resides on that shelf announcing to anyone observant enough to notice that I’m an alternative rock music fan.  I grow weary of the same Nickleback song pulsing across the airwaves and I need the obscure Pop/Rock bands who seem to bypass the major streams of distribution.  This is my own personal taste which is reflected on the CD cases.  But with digital downloads, part of my past seems to have evaporated.


It’s this way with books as well.  That copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,” reminds me of when smart-aleck dialogue became an acceptable form of literature.  At least that was my first introduction into the underbelly of character-driven narrative.  It’s why Elmore Leonard was so endearing to his readers.  When I look on my desk and see
literary giants like Chandler and Leonard mingling with classics like “Fahrenheit 451,” or “Of Mice and Men,” I remember why I became a writer in the first place.  How different would my career had been if I were just starting now and read everything digitally.  No wall full of books to motivate me.  No book spines staring at me while I’m searching for the proper phrase. 

It’s the reason we take all our pictures digitally, yet still have them printed and framed to hang on the wall.  Otherwise they remain in our phones and go completely unnoticed.  In this way, I’m afraid some of our best writers are going unnoticed as well, hidden in the dark recesses of our computers or digital readers.  Only exposed to a readers eyes when they are actually in the process of reading it, then stored in the virtual basement for eternity.

Do I read ebooks?  You bet.  But somehow that old copy of “Brave New World,” won’t be going anywhere for a very long time.  In that regard paper books are an important part of our culture and somehow we need them to remain with us long after we've read their contents.

Now where’s that Doors album I've been looking for?          

Saturday, February 1, 2014

5 QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR JIM FUSILLI

Jim Fusilli is a multi-talented author.  He's written fiction for young adults, published many short stories and is the rock and pop music critic for the Wall Street Journal.  He's been nominated for an Edgar and Macavity award and his book, "Hard, Hard City," was voted Novel of the Year in 2004 by Mystery Ink Magazine.  But in 2012 he launched a new mystery series with the novel, "Road to Nowhere."  It's this story of a troubled drifter who witnesses a brutal assault on a young woman and is hurled into a vortex of violence and double-crosses which intrigued me the most.  I found "Road to Nowhere," to be extremely well-written and kept me turning pages all the way to the end.  Jim was kind enough to spend a few minutes of his time to talk about his writing career with me.

  1. You’re an extremely talented writer with a very descriptive writing style.  Is that where nonfiction and fiction come together?  It seems thirty years ago nonfiction writing was much drier, now you can barely tell the difference between the two.  Do you agree with that?
Thank you.  My approach to my fiction and journalism are entirely different, though I suppose there are inevitable points of comparison regarding style, in particular the sweep and rhythm of language.  At The Wall Street Journal, there’s a tradition of long-form features where reporters also had to be fine writers, so I came up in the field reading terrific writing and aspired to do it as well.  Thirty years ago, magazines were publishing long-form nonfiction by the likes of Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe.  There was no shortage of flash there.  Norman Lewis is one of my favorite writers and his reporting, especially from Italy in the World War II years and thereafter, is dry – in the sense that it places fact above flash – but he knows how to set up his points and they arrive with full power.  He seemed to strike the balance between journalism and opinion that I prefer, more so than what was called “the new journalism” or Truman Capote’s “nonfiction novel,” as much as I admire “In Cold Blood.”
When I look back some of the columns I’ve written for the Journal – I’ve been preparing an anthology – I can tell which ones I wrote when I was also writing a novel – as opposed to researching or editing and re-editing and re-re-editing various drafts of a novel.  The language is more fluid and in service of an emotional connection.  That’s not necessary a plus:  My column is about 800 words and I need to get right to it for busy readers.  But every once in a while it works to keep things fresh.

         2- Which form of writing is more satisfying?  Fiction or nonfiction?

I enjoy both quite a bit.  I’m one of those lucky writers:  I love to write; and I find all kinds of writing satisfying.  It was difficult for me to learn how to utilize the novel as a form – I don’t think I fully understood it until “Narrows Gate,” which was my sixth published novel.  Journalism came a little bit easier.  I had a bit of a voice as a young writer and by the time I began to write for the Journal, I was surrounded by reporters and editors who were the best in their field.  They helped me improve.  To be in their company, I had to strive for excellence.  If I had to choose, I’d say it’s more satisfying to write a successful novel – successful in the sense that the story that emerges organically from setting and is well told in service of the reader – just because it was so hard to raise whatever sense of craft I had to the level of art.

        3- The main character in Road to Nowhere and Billboard Man is nameless. Does that offer any more freedom than a named character? Or do you feel that adds more intrigue to the narrative?

Halfway through “Billboard Man,” his real name is revealed.  The character who we meet as Sam is disassociated completely from the world in which he lives.  His name doesn’t matter:  He exists, but doesn’t live.  Over the course of the two books, he is moving inexorably toward recovering his self, even if he believes he can’t or doesn’t want to, so it was inevitable that he’d be Donnie Bliss again.  By the way, there’s a bit of a logic at work in the aliases he chooses.  Just a little foreshadowing.

          4- Road to Nowhere is set in Chicago and Billboard Man starts in Arizona.  Since you live on the east coast, how did you choose these locations as the setting for your books?

I wanted to give Sam a sense of dislocation so I chose places that I’d visited, but didn’t know all that well.  As a journalist, I travel often.  I arrive in a city, stay a day or two, talk to a few people, walk around a bit, take in the atmosphere, make notes and do my story.  If I have a visceral reaction to the city, I can recall it for my fiction.  For example, the town of Jerome, Arizona – which is where “Billboard Man” begins – is home to the vineyard and wine shop of Maynard James Keenan, the singer in Tool and A Perfect Circle.  We spent a nice day together in Jerome.  I’d been there before, but to have Maynard as a guide was special.  I thought I’d revisit it in a novel.  I would be writing from a perspective that was slightly surreal, not unpleasant and yet alien.  Then the story moves to Memphis, a city I don’t know as well as I should.  But I thought maybe it was time to put some music in one of my novels.  Several key scenes take place in or near Sun Studios, which is where Elvis and Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis made so many of their hits.  I guess the point there, however subliminal, is the past is a thing you can’t escape.
With Chicago, I always feel a bit lost there.  Those big buildings on Michigan Avenue, the El and the lake:  They don’t really care if I’m there or not.  I wanted “Road to Nowhere,” the first Sam book, when he was just emerging from his darkness, to ring with that sense of alienation.

          5- With the reduction of paper books and bookstore signings, how does digital publishing change how you market your work?  Or does it?

It does.  Very much so.  I miss working with the owners and staff at independent bookstores, and I miss talking to readers.  In the six years it took me to write and publish “Narrows Gate,” I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the experience of coming into a town, visiting the staff at the bookstore, doing a reading – though I’m a dreadful reader of my own work – and then spending time with readers.  I loathe the idea of author as celebrity, but I have to confess that getting good feedback from smart readers feels a bit like a reward for the effort of writing the book.  
In a sense, I’m conflicted about the new world of publishing because I don’t really care about delivery systems – for me, a book isn’t paper and ink.  It’s a story by an author written for readers.  I like the immediacy of downloading, and I can use social media and my mailing list to alert people to when there’s a good discount on one of my books on Amazon.com.  But I’m the kind of author who really profits from hand-selling.  My books aren’t for everyone, just as my column isn’t for everyone.  Independent book sellers have been very good to me and I believe the sales of “Road to Nowhere” and “Billboard Man” have suffered because I haven’t made it possible for those book sellers to introduce the books to their customers who they know would enjoy them.  I have to do something about that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

5 QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR DAVID LENDER

David Lender is a former investment banker whose bestselling thrillers are inspired by the twenty-five years he spent on Wall Street.  His writing is very descriptive and he lures you into his story very quickly.  He's the author of six novels and four short stories, but the Sasha Del Mira thrillers are the real deal.  Trojan Horse (the first in the series) was a crazy success on Amazon and gave him the confidence to move forward with the series.  And we're very glad he did.
Here's David:


1- Your writing is so vivid. In a subtle manner you seamlessly add the smells and sounds of your character’s surroundings.  Where did you develop such a strong writing style?

I always write a scene from one character’s point of view.  Because of that I put myself in the mindset of that character and even write the non-dialogue sections of the scene using the character’s manner of speech.  That forces me into that character’s head, so I describe what he or she is sensing in the surroundings of the scene. That includes smells, sights, sounds, textures, etc.

I also try not to overdo it with setting the table for a scene.  My first editor pounded into me that I should quickly establish the setting and get into the meat of the dialogue or action, or set the scene simultaneously.  Forget about long introductory paragraphs describing the colors of the sunset, but give readers a few rich bursts of setting that stick in their minds.

2- Being a Wall Street veteran, it must be tempting to write some real life stories into your fiction. Ever squeeze one in using different names and places?

As a former wall Streeter, yes some tidbits from real deals, negotiations, even composites of different people I worked with or represented, inevitably wind up in my fiction.  I think that must be the case with anyone who has a particular life experience, otherwise what would you have to write about?

But if the story was entirely Roman `a clef, it probably would fall flat because trying to write real-life people into fictional characters would be almost impossible to get right.  I'm not a big believer in the fact that characters have a life of their own once you create them—after all, it's the writer who determines his or her characters’ personalities and the direction their stories will take.  Otherwise your writing is just blathering onto the page with disorganized, unstructured chaos.  In addition, I think you can move your story forward in a more lifelike manner with characters you create than by trying to put yourself into the skin of a person that you know, whether or not he or she's disguised as fictional.

3- Knowing what goes on in the trenches, do you keep most of your money under your mattress?

Ha-ha.  No, hiding your money in your mattress won’t get you anyplace.  At any point I'm relatively fully invested.  I've never liked bonds, I love stocks that pay big dividends and my financial advisors tell me I have a very strong stomach and high tolerance for long-term risk.  I also learned one of my most important investing lessons early on: find smart people.  I’ve done alright investing my own money, but I've done the best by finding great advisors and money managers.

4- Tell us some of your experiences with the business of publishing.  Does it differ much from finance--or is business simply business?

I think many writers still don't look at publishing as a business.  They think it's all about writing, when in fact managing the business sides of it is critical.  Decisions about social media, promotion, covers, formatting, consistency with your genre or theme, platforms to publish on, how frequently to put out books are big parts of it.  And while it's easy to say that publishing is nothing like my former career, finance, I believe that success in any business is mostly about having an organized mind and developing a strategy.  And then having the discipline and skills to stay focused on execution.  So as a writer, stick to your genre or theme, feed your readers.

My most profound experience in the business of publishing is how I uploaded my first novel, Trojan Horse, onto the Kindle Direct Publishing platform in early 2011.  A few months before that, one of my brothers, who is sophisticated computer guy, wanted to read the novel and asked me to send him a .mobi file.  I had no idea what that was.  He took my Word file and converted it and then dragged and dropped it onto his Kindle.  I had no idea what a Kindle was either.

Then my wife gave me a Kindle shortly afterward for my birthday.  Rather than wait until I knew what I was doing, I stumbled through formatting Trojan Horse for Kindle, chose one of my dad’s photographs for the cover picture and had a friend of mine who did post-production work create the cover for me.  I threw the book up there priced at $9.99 alongside major thriller writers’ current releases.  This was back in the day, when $0.99 was driving pricing for indie writers.  I learned fast.  It took me about a week to figure out price was an issue.  So I cut the price to $0.99 and the book started to move.  I got some good reviews.  I started promoting it in social media, joined an on-line author group that swapped ideas.  I took out an ad in one of the online e-book newsletters and got a big two-day bump.  And then somehow Amazon's software picked up that bump and Trojan Horse was featured in an Amazon e-mail blast with a few other thrillers, and that really lit up Trojan Horse.

I woke up that Saturday morning and had sold 100 books by 10 a.m., more than in the entire previous week.  I thought it was a mistake.  By 11 a.m., another hundred, then 100, 200, and so on.  Trojan Horse ultimately reached the top 10 on the Kindle bestseller list.

Yes, I got lucky, but I was also adapting quickly to what I was learning and that helped me start developing a following.  I really believe if you sit around and research everything to death, you'll never get off your butt to do anything.  Sometimes just throwing yourself in the water over your head and clawing your way to the surface can get you to a better place more quickly.

5- Where do you see digital technology taking the publishing world five years from now?

I see digital technology being the primary vehicle for publishing five years from now.  I don't think physical books will ever be totally dead, because there's a mystique about holding a book in your hand.  You can go back and reread it, mark it up or dog-ear its pages.  It's a whole different concept than highlighting something in your Kindle.

But e-books are an unstoppable wave, a tsunami, and if you take the analogy of what's happened in the newspaper business you can see where it's going.  Any newspaper that hasn't adapted to the online world is either a local niche business based on a completely different model, or it’s dying or dead.  Google and Amazon are the ones to emulate; they’ll rule the world.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

5 QUESTIONS FOR BESTSELLING AUTHOR VINCENT ZANDRI


Vincent Zandri is as mysterious as his name.  With a name like Vincent Zandri, he couldn’t be a drycleaner or a bartender, he had to be a freelance photojournalist who traveled around the globe for stories, then published them in places like New York Newsday and Game and Fish Magazine.  I know him mostly because I follow his global travels as a Facebook friend and watch him expose parts of the world I will never see with my own eyes. 

The other thing you should know about him is he’s an International bestselling author of many thrillers including his Dick Moonlight series which I personally have read and enjoyed immensely.  His writing is sharp and casual to the ear, yet full of details that will keep your senses completely engaged. Right now his latest “Full Moonlight”  is available as an Ebook for FREE:   

Vincent was kind enough to answer these 5 Questions from his hotel room overlooking the Tuileries in Paris.  Mysterious enough for you?
 
1-   As a freelance journalist you’ve been to every corner of the world.  Which is your favorite spot to visit?
http://www.amazon.com/Full-Moonlight-Dick-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00EZB6TYQ/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1I spend a couple months in Florence every year in an apartment I rent from a friend. So, I guess that’s my favorite spot or I wouldn’t spend so much time there. But in truth, everywhere I go holds something special for me. Paris is great in late March, early April when the trees are budding. Surprisingly, I’m not afraid of the tarantulas in the Amazon jungle, even though a small house spider will make the fine hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight. Even post-revolutionary Cairo, where I found myself surrounded by a pack of hungry street dogs, is a very special place. I guess the common denominator in all of this is authenticity. There’s not a lot of authenticity to be found in the world anymore and I’m determined to keep on seeking it out.
2-   Your Dick Moonlight series has enjoyed serious critical acclaim.  How much of Dick Moonlight is actually Vincent Zandri?
No comment. Okay, I’ll admit that there’s quite of bit of Vincent Zandri in Dick Moonlight. It might be better to refer you to this brand new review Ben Sobieck of CrimeFictionBlog wrote on behalf of the newest in the series, Moonlight Sonata (StoneGate Ink). It’s pretty revealing and digs deep into Vincent Zandri as Dick Moonlight:  http://www.crimefictionbook.com/apps/blog/show/40274056-review-moonlight-sonata-by-vincent-zandri
3-   Tell us how your work has become so successful overseas.  Does it have to do with your traveling to Europe so often?
I think that’s part of it. Four or five of my books take place in Europe and the Middle East. I’ve learned a lot in my travels, and since circling the globe a couple of times and working as a journalist while doing it, I’ve become a bit humbled. Curiously, I’m also more restless. Two or three months spent back at home and I start itching for a new adventure. My lifestyle is tough on relationships! But to be more specific, I also think that my novels, especially the ones that might be considered traditional, let’s call it, existential, noir appeal to the European audience. Especially in the UK, German, and French markets. Noir is still considered literary fiction in Europe. The books are now doing quite well in India too. I’ve recently signed on with Meme Publishers in Paris and Milan and they are translating the Moonlights into Italian and French in hopes of capitalizing on my European popularity. The first novel to be released will be Moonlight Sonata later this spring.  
4-   Tell us about your relationship with your current and past publishers.  If you could talk to Vincent Zandri of 20 years ago would you have chosen any different paths in your publishing journey? 
20 years ago I embarked on as traditional a path as a young neophyte writer can possibly embark. I pursued the same path Hemingway followed. Start with writing for the newspapers, move up to magazines, start on some short stories and publish them in the small magazines and journals, then write the big novel. It’s exactly how I began my career, with one crucial exception. I went to writing school believing that with an MFA in Writing in my pocket, I could teach should it come to pass that earning a good living as a writer would be impossible. As luck, and providence, would have it, I’ve never had to teach. Since then I’ve published two books with Delacorte Press/Dell where I was paid a 250K advance that I did not earn out. I’ve published seven or eight books with StoneGate/StoneHouse Ink, seven books with Amazon Publishing’s Thomas & Mercer imprint which included new editions of my Dell books (both of which went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies), and a book here and there with a couple of micro presses. This year I will publish anther book or two with the StoneGates, one with Down & Out Press, one with Thomas & Mercer, and of course, my foreign books with Meme. I’m also building up my own exclusive publishing imprint with books like The Shroud Key which is part of the new Chase Baker series. But to answer your question, would I have done anything differently knowing what I know now? I most certainly would have jumped into the indie publishing pool far earlier back when the major pubs were seriously cutting back. I didn’t know about ebooks until 2010.
5-   Which do you enjoy more- writing articles about people’s plight in different part of the globe, or recreating those worlds in your fiction?
It’s two different experiences. When you’re writing on deadline in Paris or Florence or on a hospital ship docked off the Port of Cotoneau in Africa for a news outlet like Moscow’s RT, and later on you see your story and photos on-line and it just happens to be the lead story in Eastern Europe, you get an unimaginable rush. But when you are able to take those same experiences and put them in a novel, making them seem so real for the reader he feels like he himself is living inside the book, then that’s another kind of rush. Next month I have a travel piece coming out for inTravel Magazine, some design and architecture pieces for a global design trade I freelance for, and I’ll be putting the finishing touches on two new novels. Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear about a movie sale for The Remains. Could I quit journalism altogether now and focus entirely on fiction? Sure. The sales are there and I’m making great living from the fiction alone. But fiction, nonfiction, journalism, film … it’s all a rush to me, or I wouldn’t be doing it. I wouldn’t be dreaming about it. Like a writing teacher/novelist of mine at Vermont College by the name of Douglas Glover once said, “I lust publication.” I’ve never forgotten that because no truer words have been spoken.

Friday, December 13, 2013

SAVING THE WORLD--The psychological thriller which took a decade to get here.

Ever since my short story, Saving the World, received a Pushcart Prize nomination over a decade ago, I've been planning to extend the story into a novel.  The premise of the original story was about a clairvoyant teenage girl who visits a psychiatrist to warn him about these invisible aliens who are going to destroy the planet.  She's a true clairvoyant and proves it while reading the psychiatrist's mind at will.  Since the alien's are invisible, she's the only one who can hear their thoughts.  The psychiatrist is then told he has to come up with one reason Earth should be spared from obliteration.  His reason is a touching account of brave soul who dives to his death to save his infant son.  The story works and the aliens move on to another planet. The human spirit survives. 
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00H0LD61W/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-4&pf_rd_r=1BJXJF7XWSK06WKYHC7G&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200302&pf_rd_i=507846

The novel with the same title is based on the same characters, but now when Margo Sutter comes to visit the psychiatrist, there's an entirely new set of baggage to overcome.  Her story is on the cover of Time Magazine and half the population believes the apocalypse is upon us, while the other half believe she's mentally unstable.  The psychiatrist, Michael Bryant, has just lost his wife and daughter to a drunk driver accident, so he's closing his practice.  He wants to leave and find a way to destroy his own life. It's not until a rogue FBI agent stalks Margo that the psychiatrist gets involved.  A priest friend of Bryant's believes that Margo is an angel brought down to save Bryant's soul. The FBI agent believes she's an alien herself and he's trying to kill her in order to save the planet.

The scary part? 
Someone is right.

Currently the thriller is an Amazon E-book exclusive for $2.99.  Other formats will follow, including a print version down the road. 

Enjoy.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

COLLABORATION-THE WAVE OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Ever wonder why so many musicians end up singing duets together?  Do they just like each other so much that they want to work together?  Sometimes.  Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin-of course. Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow?  Hmmm. 

More times than not, however, the incentive is usually money.  How?  Well, it's all about crossover sales. The band or singer's fans are introduced to an entirely new group of listeners who hadn't know much about that band until that big duet together.  Think Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's "Stop Dragging my Heart Around."  You think that didn't help those two artists reach over and capture the other artist's fans?  You bet it did.


Now why would I bring up collaboration on a mostly writing/reading blog?  Because writers have been collaborating for as long as musicians have.  James Patterson publishes ten books a year. You think he's doing all that writing by himself?  The reason I bring this up is because I've just been invited to participate in a collaboration myself.  Indie superstar J.A. Konrath recently invited readers of his blog to send him stories using one of his characters in the lead role.  After that he was going to decide whether it was good enough quality to develop a collaborating relationship with him.  I'm here to tell you he really enjoyed a short story I wrote using his Jack Daniels character which will be published early next year.  Yes, Joe will be rewriting the story with me by emailing the newest versions back and forth until we have a finished product, so it is a true collaboration.  As a matter of fact my newest Nick Bracco thriller is destined to have one of Joe's characters in that as well. 

So is this all about the money?  Partially yes.  Because let's face it, Joe will receive the benefit of gaining some new Nick Bracco readers and I'll certainly benefit from an introduction to part of his enormous fan base.  At no point, however, would I ever publish something inferior just for a payday.  This is all about the future and expanding my reach.  If I can establish a large enough fan base of my own, it will make it so much easier to transition into a full time writing career.  And after all, isn't that what we writers all dream about?  The ability to write all day?

I'll keep everyone posted about the future of this collaboration and how it progresses.  Right now I'm very excited about the possibilities and there will be more publishing news to come very soon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

THE FUTURE OF NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES


On August 5th of this year Jeff Bezos announced he was buying the Washington Post for 250 million dollars.  Even though that's the kind of money Bezos carries around for lunch, it seemed like a dubious investment.  I mean newspapers are dying.  The Post had incurred a 44% drop in revenue over the past six years.  Why not wait another year or two and pick it up for 100 million?  Let's face it no one else was bidding for the darn thing.  It sounded like an investment in an 8-track tape manufacturer. 


I've searched everywhere for reasons why he did it and every publication which reported the purchase  explains that Bezos really loves the written word.  You know what else Bezos loves? Money.  So why would investing into a dinosaur industry be a wise investment?  Because although newspapers are slowly disappearing, news isn't.  That means very talented journalists are becoming a rare commodity.  The few that haven't jumped ship to other forms of media (blogs, podcasts, etc.) are finding fewer and fewer options to utilize their skills. 

One thing I haven't seen anywhere is the concept that Bezos would place a free Washington Post app right on the front screen of every Kindle Fire they sell.  That means millions of tablet users will have access to the Washington Post for free.  Who doesn't like free?  And with free access to a well established newspaper entity like the Washington Post I would suggest that readership will skyrocket.  Once that happens, revenue from advertisers will skyrocket as well. 

Although I've never seen this announced anywhere, it's not hard to imagine this becoming a reality.  And that brings me to the real subject here--the future of publishing.  Let's face it, for decades the publishers held the keys to the publishing world.  Why? Because they held the keys to distribution.  But with digital technology allowing anyone to become a distributor, publishers are becoming less and less relevant.  The ones who really hold the power now are the true digital distributors, Amazon and Apple.  Amazon already owns several publishing companies already so it's not beyond the realm of possibilities that they would create their own magazines for specific genres.  I'm speaking fiction and nonfiction.  With so many talented freelance writers out there searching for a home for their byline, content is dirt cheap.  And Amazon can distribute digital magazines for pennies.  So the content is cheap and distribution is cheap.  Anyone know why Jeff Bezos is one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet?  He thinks two steps ahead of anyone else.

Does this mean print newspapers and paper magazines are going away?  No.  You can still purchase vinyl records if you wish.  But the future of newspaper and magazine publishing is certainly digital, and there are no better companies positioned for that form of distribution than Amazon and Apple.  Who will be the first to break through this market?  In my opinion Jeff Bezos has just placed his bet on the table.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

HOW NOT TO MAKE IT IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS

I have known Tim McDonald for a couple of decades now and he is probably one of the most overlooked singer/songwriters I've ever heard.  I spent one summer listening to his "Everything in Nature," CD and never once tired of it.  The fact is, he's a true Indie artist in the most complete sense of the word.  When I saw his post in Skope I knew I had to place it on this blog.  Listen to the frustration in his voice.  I'll bet a lot of Indie writers can empathize with his plight. 

Now, here's Tim:

How Not To Make It In the Music Business

 

I had the same dream as every other unsigned musician when the internet (supposedly) leveled the playing field. This is going to be great, I remember thinking. I can just do it on my own now!  Who needs a label? All I have to do is put it out there, right?  And so I did that. And that’s what we’ve all done for the past ten years at least, hoping for the best. But do you want to know a secret…do you want to know what happened?

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Nothing. That’s what happened, and I’m still pissed.

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Well, I guess I’m over it for the most part. But now the game has evolved into something even more elusive, like some online version of the emperor’s new clothes since nobody ever says anything. Because all you ever hear these days is that if you really want to be successful with your music career, or any other creative business venture for that matter, all you have to do is get more socially connected!

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So now that we’ve all been at it for a while, answer me this… are you on Myspark or Faceplant or Urube or Tweaker or Fumbler or Regurgitation Nation, or are ya’ selling on iPlumes or Prankora or Spot-a-fly or any of the other new ones you’re probably missing out on…Or maybe you should just start up a KicksHarder campaign…Oh, and by the way, how many friends ya’ got? Or likes do you have? Or are you trending lately? Or have you gone viral yet?  And if not, that’s why nothing’s happening for ya’ friend, what do you expect?

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Well, nothing, since that’s what I’ve learned to expect after playing this game for the last decade. Because let’s be honest, we all know its bullshit for the most part. No matter what business you’re in, really. Ok, it does help a little.

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But what we all learn sooner or later is that the real common denominator for any artist to become successful is the same as it was before the internet made us think we could get around it, which is to have the capital and working relationships behind you to really get the word out. Then you go on Faceplant and all the rest, and…voila, it actually does work!

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And just to clear up any confusion. For anyone who still buys into the term “indie band” or “indie artist” as meaning any artist, or group of artists, who have become successful completely on their own - I hate to break it to you, but they didn’t. Because the truth is, if they had done it all on their own, you never would have heard of them.

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Case in point: Have you ever heard of the indie rock band, Broken Poets? They’re great, I think. They’ve been around for the last twelve years, too. I know. And in that time they’ve produced and promoted four full length records and three EPs completely on their own. They’ve also played a countless number of gigs, big and small, all over the East and West coasts. Well, that’s what I would consider a real indie band, wouldn’t you? But here’s why I know you’ve never heard of them; because they’ve never had the support of a major label, plain and simple. And it’s not for lack of trying either, because I know they’ve tried.

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 Ok, it’s my band.

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But this is not to say I think the few big record labels left out there are evil because they never signed us. Or that any of the “indie labels” that are usually always affiliated somehow with these bigger labels are bad either. In fact, the way I look at it, if it weren’t for record labels in general I would have never heard the music that inspired me to become a musician in the first place. It’s a system that works, so I get it.    

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But here’s the clincher. There are many independently run bands and artists still out here - you might call us the unknown indie artists. We’re the ones who just never fit into the framework of what these labels considered to be marketable - which is what the term “indie music” actually meant at first; as a way to describe all the artists and bands that were doing it on their own during those first waves of the internet.

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But since just the idea of a self sufficient artist via the web was a threat to the industry, the major labels made a brilliant move obviously. They simply got behind the bands they knew they could market, continued to call it “indie music” and packaged it for the masses; which is how the word “indie” became more associated with a certain lo-fi sound and appearance, rather than as an artist’s preference to remain independent. A very well financed and connected lo-fi sound and appearance, I might add.

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Again, nothing against record labels or even the artists they represent. Because as much as we all wish it was just about the music, the process of getting it out there always comes down to the business side whether we like it or not. And that’s why I can’t even blame those first few independently successful bands for teaming up with the status quo so fast. It was just a business decision that made sense I would imagine. And, ok, I’m just jealous I wasn’t one of them.

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But just remember the next time you hear that term indie music thrown around so easily, that a lot of us original misfits are still out here. Still producing and promoting our own work under the radar. Because we’re the ones with the scaled down versions of the labels I mentioned above, labels that work just as hard to put out good music year after year, but on a miniscule budget in comparison. Just imagine a label where the art vs. commerce debate gets resolved by default every time.

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And just speaking for myself, I’ve been producing my own work and doing things my own way for so long now, I plan to keep it this way. And, yes, even if that day comes when I finally make enough money to be considered by a label as marketable - well, it would just be a matter of unknown indie principle at that point.

 

Written by Tim McDonald

Monday, September 30, 2013

5 QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR J.R. RAIN

J.R. Rain is an ex-private investigator, who now writes full-time while living on a small island in the Pacific Northwest with his dog, Sadie.  Doesn't every writer want to live on a small island writing for a living with your dog sleeping on your feet?

Well, here's where J.R. differs from the rest of the publishing world.  When I say he writes full-time, I really mean it.  While in college he wrote two books and over 80 short stories.  Currently he's ranked #11 on Amazon's author rating for the extremely popular Fantasy genre.  There's no question he's one of the most prolific writers on the planet with 18 books being released in 2013 alone.  Oh, and he's sold over 2 million e-books so far. Understandably, it took some time for him to respond to my interview request, but when he finally did, he was extremely warm and engaging, and obviously spent some valuable time putting together his answers.  Thanks J.R.


1- You’ve had an agent and have worked with some very influential people in your career, what made you decide to publish your work as an Indie author—and have you been tempted to go the traditional route?

Hi Gary! And great question. Early in my career I did all that I could think of to connect with major publishers...even starting my own literary agency! I had a few close calls, and three different times I thought I would, in fact, be working with major publishers. But all the deals fell through, and I spiraled into depression and drinking and exotic drugs. Okay, that’s not quite true. I’ve never done a single drug, and I rarely drink. Although I like to binge eat! What happened, Gary, was that I started accumulating all of these unpublished manuscripts, although I did publish two novels with two very small publishers, but the money just wasn’t there and I had to rethink, well, everything. I had just decided to start my own publishing company (I’m a stubborn cuss), when Amazon Kindle opened their doors to authors. And, shortly after that, I coined the term “Indie author”. Okay, I didn’t coin it, haha, but someone did! And  I love it and use it often. Yes, I have been tempted to go the traditional route. A Big Five publisher offered me a lot of money for my Samantha Moon series but I told them no. I was literally sick to my stomach at the thought of giving it up to someone else. Instead, I went with BenBella, a wonderful mid-sized publisher who now distributes just the paperbacks to bookstores far and wide, while I keep the ebook rights. Win, win. Oh, and I’ve recently sold two standalone mystery novels to Thomas & Mercer...The Body Departed and Silent Echo.

2- Tell us how you developed the Samantha Moon character, and I’m sure I’m speaking for most male authors when I ask—what’s it like getting into the head of a female protagonist?

Oh, man...great question! I was dating a Federal Agent in 2003 and was just floored by how gutsy and tough and imperturbable she was. Oh, and she was only 5’ 3”, and carried a gun, and could kick most men’s asses. So, she was the starting point for Sam. Next, my sister and author, Elaine Babich, got the nod. I based Sam’s family life and home and actual residence around my sister. But before all of that, the original idea for Samantha Moon came from watching a different Samantha...yes, the TV show Betwitched. It was one of those episodes in which the nosy neighbor across the street was absolutely certain that something was very off about her neighbor. Well, something was very off. Sam was a witch--hell, her whole family was witches. And yet the world at large mostly didn’t know. Meaning, they were able to assimilate into the neighborhood and look normal. So I asked myself in 2003, how would a vampire assimilate into a neighborhood, have a mariage and family, and appear to be normal. Yes, this was before the big vampire boom. Moon Dance nearly sold to a big publisher way back when. I’m glad it didn’t. I’m glad I can keep writing these stories on my terms. I love slipping inside a woman’s thoughts. It’s a fun challenge. How do I do it? Haven’t a clue...I just become Samantha. Make sense? No? Sigh....

3- To say the least you’ve led a very interesting life with wildly high successes and some really low collapses, yet you’ve seemed to overcome tremendous obstacles to become one of the most popular Indie authors on the planet.  What is your life like right now?

Ha! Well, I’m certainly the most popular indie author in my own house. Which is to say, I live alone haha. So, yeah, I’m a bit of a loner. Haven’t been married in 10 years, and have no plans to do so. Yes, I’m single...but not quite ready to mingle haha. I prefer to do the mingling with my characters. I’ve lived too long struggling and frustrated with the whole publishing process. That frustration is gone, and for that I’m eternally thankful for those who have helped me. Most days you will find me writing 1000 words a day, or editing, or helping my writing friends, or at coffee shops, or walking my dog. A simple life.

4- Okay, so you’re obviously a very talented writer and no question extremely prolific, but you’re releasing an incredible 18 novels in 2013—exactly how long does it take you to write a novel from beginning to end?

Okay, I think you got that information on a Facebook post from a few months ago...let me count the novels I have published in 2013 so that we can nail the number down. Okay, done counting...looks like it’s going to be 18 novels...wait, what did you say? 18? Then, yeah, wow...I’m a freak! It was going to be more, but I decided to back out as co-author on some books, and act only as a publisher. In fact, I finally did start my own publishing company J.R. Rain Press. We will be publishing 13 books this year, many of which are based on my original ideas, although some I’m truly buying and acting as a publisher. To answer your question, it takes me two months to write a full novel. Bear in mind, my novels are between 40K - 50K words. I keep them short and fast. Why? I have a chronically short attention span. I need to keep these books short and fast to entertain me. I used to do novels in about 6 weeks...but now I’ve cut my workload in half. 1000 words a day, with Sundays off. I used to do 2000 words a day, every day, like clockwork. Also, I take off two weeks between novels. Still, I do have free time in the evenings, and often spend that time co-authoring books with other writers.

5- Can you give us a sneak preview of what your readers can expect to see this coming year?  Any new characters you’d like to introduce?

I re-introduced Allison Lopez, who first appeared in Vampire Games, and has had a supporting a role in each subsequent Vampire for Hire novel. She now has her own series, “The Witches Series.” Yes, she is a psychic and a witch. Turns out Sam was, too, in a past life. I’m writing a new young adult novel with Piers Anthony, called Dolfin Tayle, which will be out shortly. Other than that, I’m bringing out the latest Jim Knighthorse novel, which I will begin writing tomorrow, September 2nd! You see, I take Sundays off...well, doing interviews doesn’t count!