In which I detail my adventures in writing and publishing

Friday, December 9, 2011

My own website

I'm not done creating the site, but will soon become a reality and I'll link this blog to a blog on the website. I acquired the domain over a year ago and thought eventually I'd have to hire a professional to do the heavy lifting. Turns out it's easier than that. My good friend Doug Dorow turned me on to Weebly, a do-it-yourself website creator.
In my spare time over the next four weeks I'll attempt to pull it together and start off the new year with my new website.

KDP Direct

Amazon and Kindle are being aggressive in trying to lock in authors by developing KDP Direct, a program that promises to divide a pot of cash between participating authors. The only catch is that participants can't sell their e-books anywhere else for each quarter they participate. For me, it's a no-brainer since my Smashwords and Pubit sales are flat, as in flat line. At least with KDP Direct I can acquire some free marketing and customers are going to be able to check out books one at a time for free.
We shall see.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When does a writer become a writer?

Today's post is a link to an article in The Atlantic written by blogger Betsy Morais. First, a snippet and then a link to the full article:

"It's the stuff of dreams: proof that those evenings spent hunched over a desk, typing furiously might, just might, not be in vain; that Paul Giamatti's character from Sideways does not represent an undiscovered middle-aged writer's inevitable fate. Or, as Jenni put it, "It's not because you don't do concerts that you can't play the piano."

In the Alexis Jenni school of thought, a writer may be someone, anyone, with a compulsion to scrawl or the conviction of having something to say. A writer is not defined by his career, but the simple act of writing regularly. And authors who found success through the muck of making ends meet have taken that approach for some time now, in practice at least."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sample Sunday

I haven't posted in a long time, a combination of summer diversions and editing Winner Takes All. I thought since sales of Win or Go Home have been, well let's say flat for the past month, I thought I'd include a chapter to create some interest.


Parker killed the car engine and surveyed the strip mall. It was late morning but few people were around. The parking lot held the usual eclectic assortment of cars. A few minivans, some weathered but rust-free Japanese subcompacts, a moped, a Harley and his personal favorite: an oversized sedan that belonged in the ‘60s and probably had been owned by somebody’s granny so it only had 20,000 on the odometer. A police car cruised by on the avenue, slowing a bit as it passed two women clad in mini-skirts and tube tops walking toward Parker. The breeze off Puget Sound lifted fast food wrappers and plastic bags. The women—barely out of their teens—grimaced as the chilly air hit them. The cops did a U-turn and pulled in ahead of them. The squad car lights began flashing and the girls stopped without being told and glared at the cops. One of them opened her purse and lit a cigarette. The other started texting.
Parker spotted the pay phone, sheltered under a blue hood between two storefronts. The phone directories were long gone. Only the chains remained. Taggers had decorated the inside of the hood with urban hieroglyphics. He dropped in a quarter and dialed. Angel picked up on the first ring. “Yeah.”
“I’m at the Sound Heights Mall,” said Parker.
“What do you see?”
Parker turned around. “Well, out on the street the cops have stopped a couple of women and they’re talking.”
“Hookers, probably. Not their usual time. Must have had late dates,” said Angel. “How about the mall?”
Parker left the receiver hanging and walked backwards into the parking lot. There were larger and less dated malls only minutes away. The businesses here seemed destined to make the Chapter 11 listings before long. Some loyal customers persisted, but this neighborhood had few permanent residents. Out in the street the cops had handcuffed one woman. The other continued to text. He picked up the phone. “Bamboo Gate Nail Salon, Emerald City Confidential, one abandoned, SeaTac Crafts and Tru-Valu Pawn Shop,” he recited.
“Well, start at the nail salon. They probably work eighteen hour days. Maybe they remember seeing something. Did you remember Norton’s mug shot?”
“Yes, boss,” Parker deadpanned, and hung up.
The Bamboo Gate served as the eastern anchor of the mall. An authentic bamboo sign swung from wrought iron supports above the entrance. The paint had faded and peeled but he could read the subscript: We welcome walk-ins. No checks, please. Parker paced off the distance from the payphone to the front door. Twenty feet. Cigarette butts littered the sidewalk in an untidy circle a step or two away. For once he appreciated smokers. There was a chance one had seen the caller.
Parker entered and looked around. Music drifted through ceiling tiles, tickling his memory. The lyrics were Vietnamese but the composers were Lennon and McCartney. The air smelled of ethyl acetate, the major ingredient of nail polish. Six manicurists were working, facing the front window while their customers watched a TV hanging from the ceiling in the rear.
One by one, the manicurists stopped to look at him. They all wore identical blue smocks with white collars. None looked out of her teens by much. The sounds of quiet chatter dwindled to nothing, leaving the Vietnamese Beatles to compete with a talk show. In the farthest cube, a woman set her tools down and strolled in his direction. She carried her small frame with the air of someone in authority even though she was a full head shorter than Parker. She wore her hair spiked; tiger striped black on orange—or was it orange on black? But that didn’t grab his attention as much as her blue eyes.
“Can I help you?” She grabbed his hand and spread the fingers apart. “We—ah—not do nails for many guys here. You not look gay.” She dropped his hand and demanded, “What you want?”
“Information.” Parker flexed his fingers; her grip had been that strong. “I don’t need my nails done. I can be generous.”
“You a cop?”
“Bail recovery. Bounty hunter.” Parker flipped his slim wallet open and showed his ID. The woman looked it over and said something in Vietnamese. A chorus of tittering erupted behind her. “What’s the joke?” he said.
“You no look like bounty hunter on TV,” said the girl.
“Not ugly enough for you?”
She made another comment and her co-workers laughed again. Parker shrugged and looked around. Some of the customers had turned their heads to check out the conversation. “I say you think highly of yourself,” she said.
Parker showed her the mug shot. “Three days ago somebody called him from that phone out there. Maybe he came to the mall later and walked by the window? Maybe a few weeks before?”
She took a look. “White men all look same. But he never been around.”
“You sure about that?” Parker opened his wallet again, this time exposing the fifty tucked behind the ID. She tilted the picture and squinted. She showed it to all the girls in their cubes.
“Sorry, they no see him either,” she said. “Wish we did. Business bad. Hard to pay rent.”
Parker gave her his card. “Office and cell numbers. You see him, call. You remember something, call.” He flicked the corner of the fifty before he put the wallet away.
She smiled at him as she slid the card under the meager stacks of bills in the register drawer. “Hey, you got wife or girlfriend? Maybe you buy her manicure. Give you a good price.”
“Not attached,” he said. “But I’ll try to refer anyone I meet.” He pointed at the door. “The shop next door: Emerald City Confidential. Dating service?”
The girl cleared her throat and mimed a spitting action. “Whores around here don’t use buildings. Do it in cars, in alleys, everyplace. Stay away, you get sick.”
Parker gave her a smile of his own. “I don’t mean it that way. I want to ask them questions. What kind of place is it?”
“Private eye. A pig.”
“The pig have a name?” he asked.
“Decker. He think he important because he used to be cop. He ask me for date like I am street girl. I tell him to go away, he get mad and kick the wall.” She pointed to a divot in the drywall and made a hissing noise as she curled her fingers like cat’s claws.
“What’s your name?” said Parker.
“Annie, I’m dying to pay somebody for information.” He took the fifty out and handed it over. “Keep your eyes open, that’s all I’m asking. This is a deposit. Deal?”
Annie took the bill and slid it into her bra. She looked down and tucked it a hair farther. Parker walked out the door thinking the fifty was wasted, but who knew? At least some unreported income for the shop. God knew it could use a stimulus package.
Parker walked to the pay phone and looked up at the Emerald City Confidential sign. He hadn’t noticed the surveillance camera when he called Angel. It was bolted below the green block letters twelve feet above the sidewalk. The builder had used glass bricks to create two rectangular windows on either side of the door, which was metal and looked as robust as a bank vault. He had seen gun stores that had less secure entrances. Brass screws attached the numbers of the street address to the door and below them: Office hours by appointment only. He stood there asking himself: what would Angel do?
He knocked on the door and waited. Out in the street the cops and the hookers were long gone. On impulse he closed his hand on the doorknob and twisted. To his surprise, it was unlocked. He had no plan. He had left his paperwork in the car. His gun, too. He held his breath and pushed the door open. Seeing nothing, he stepped across the threshold.
The door closed with a crisp click. He stood still, adjusting to the gloom, aware of stale smoke and the smell of sweat. The glass bricks were more opaque than they appeared. “Hello?” he said into the void. He spotted a switch on the wall and flipped it. The fluorescent tubes overhead made a pinging noise as they warmed and came to life. Five armchairs upholstered in dreary, synthetic colors appeared in the flickering light. The cushions had been oxidized to black after years of compression. A low table to the left could have held magazines but didn’t. Maybe the clients didn’t read. Maybe someone had taken them. The light was lousy anyway.
Two doors led out of the waiting room. The first was fitted with a state of the art steel and brass dead bolt. It would take an explosive to open it. The other one couldn’t have kept out a curious fifth grader. Angel had taken him to an abandoned house once to show him how to enter by force. One hard kick against the jamb would do the trick. In this case it wasn’t necessary, as Parker tried the tinny looking knob and turned it slowly, silently. He allowed the latch to re-engage without opening the door. He thought about his gun, safely locked in his trunk. What did he have to fear? Thinking of nothing, he knocked. Shave and a haircut, two bits. Silence after the echoes faded. He pushed the door and waited while it swung out of sight and bumped the wall.
An oblong computer screen illuminated the room with understated blue tones. He peeked left and right to verify the room was unoccupied and then flipped the light switch. Here there were more comfortable furnishings: a leather sofa against the wall, a massive wooden desk, a filing cabinet and a standup refrigerator next to a sink.
Parker walked past the computer to the wall behind the desk. Unlike Angel’s office, where every square inch of space was occupied by a plaque or photograph, the motif here was Spartan. A private investigator’s license issued to Leonard Howard Decker. Next to it a laminated plaque depicting a mythical, four-legged creature in green holding a flaming torch with its claws. 341st Training Squadron. “Detect and Defend” inscribed underneath. Next to it, an 11x14 photograph of two men in fatigues posing in front of a Gothic style cathedral. It looked European but Parker couldn’t place it otherwise. The final exhibit in the gallery was an award for meritorious service dated July 1995 honoring Patrolman Leonard H. Decker.
The file cabinet contained just empty manila folders with colored tabs displaying case names. The files were most certainly all on the computer, which displayed a screensaver picture that disappeared when Parker touched the mouse. A login screen demanding user ID and password took its place. Hacking wasn’t part of his repertoire so he let it alone. The desktop contained only an ashtray with three cigar butts, a telephone and a framed photo of a girl, maybe early teens, with a winning smile and brown eyes. The desk drawers had miscellaneous stationery supplies and nothing of interest. Parker wondered if the surveillance camera feed went directly to the computer or to a hidden recorder. He even checked the wastebasket, but found nothing.
It occurred to him to leave a note. A polite request for a return call and information. He found a pen and piece of paper and started writing when the snick-snick sound of a semi-automatic being racked froze him. “Help you find something?” said a deep voice.
“Looking for a pen,” said Parker. “I was going to leave a note.”
“Care to explain why you were fucking with the computer?”
“I touched the mouse, that’s all.”
“What did you plan to write?”
“My name and number,” said Parker. He hadn’t heard the door open but now the approaching footsteps were obvious enough. They stopped a couple of feet behind. The gunman’s breathing sounded harsh, as if he had a broken nose, improperly set. The sounds came from a point higher than Parker’s ears, meaning the gunman was at least six-four. In spite of his size he had approached within a few feet before Parker knew it. Parker kept still. The gunman didn’t move either. Waiting for Parker to do something stupid or just planning his next move?
Yang had tried to show him how to take down a gunman in this position. Forgetting that he broke the first rule: never let someone sneak up from behind, what next? Get out of the line of fire as quickly as possible. Would the guy risk shooting at his own computer? It was only the screen; the CPU sat on the floor. A new monitor at Best Buy cost 150 bucks. OK, rule two: after moving right, whirl and grab the gun arm and smash it against the desk. Follow that if necessary with a knee to the groin. Piece of cake.
A semi-auto pistol needed five pounds of pressure and three-eighths of an inch trigger pull to fire. Odds were the gunman already had a couple of pounds on it already. Would Parker bet his life he could get out of the way?
“Raise your hands up and turn around slow.”
Parker made the move using baby steps, hands as high as he could reach. He looked at the gun first. It wasn’t a Glock like he had. This was a Colt .45 M1911 model, the traditional military sidearm issued for many years before the government went to the Beretta 9mm, and the gunman held it left handed. Parker’s fantasy of disarming him would have ended in disaster. “My name is Rick Parker. I work for Rainier Bail Recovery. ID is in my pocket. Put the gun down.”
“I’m Lenny Decker. But then, somehow I think you knew that.” He kept the Colt trained on Parker.
“I’m looking for somebody else,” said Parker.
“I know how bounty hunters work. What made you come here?”
“Got a tip about a bail skipper named Michael Norton.”
“You armed?” said Decker.
“No. I left it in my car,” said Parker.
Decker lowered the Colt and began to laugh. “You dipshit,” he said between bellows. “Show me the ID.”
Decker slipped the Colt into a shoulder holster once he had his hands on Parker’s wallet. Parker had been accurate with Decker’s height: easily six-four and with only a slight paunch. Not the sort of guy you’d hassle unless you were drunk and aching for a fight. He’d been right about the broken nose as well. Whoever had hit him meant business. It begged for a good nose and throat surgeon to straighten it. If Decker hadn’t gone down from the blow, he probably left his assailant in worse shape: his hands were massive.
Decker tossed the wallet on his desk and paced back and forth, staring at Parker the whole time. His skin had lost a battle with adolescent acne, adding to his menacing appearance. “What sort of tip are you talking about? You think I hide fugitives?”
“Pay phone out front. Somebody called Norton’s house from it right before he fled.”
“It’s a free country. I don’t use pay phones.”
“Maybe you saw who did.”
“Maybe you noticed how I don’t have much of a front window,” said Decker.
“You’ve got a security camera pointed at it.”
“It’s pointed at the sidewalk.”
“Can I see the tape from last week?” asked Parker.
“Wouldn’t do you any good. It recycles every 24 hours. You’re on it. So are any clients who’ve seen me. They like things confidential. That means secret, in case you didn’t know.”
Decker’s expression gave away nothing. He could be lying about the tape. Parker had been lied to by experts. He had a hunch, which was worth nothing. It didn’t matter. Decker didn’t act like a guy who was careless, other than leaving his office wide open this once. Parker tried playing to his ego.
“Too bad for me, I guess. So tell me: I bet you’re good at finding people who don’t want to be found. Suppose the phone call was your only clue. What would you do?”
“I wouldn’t waste my time breaking in places, that’s for sure.”
“The door was open,” said Parker.
“It still is. Get out. I know who you work for. You don’t have the first clue about what you’re doing. If you don’t want to get hurt, stay away from me.” He motioned Parker toward the door and touched the butt of the Glock for emphasis.
Parker dropped one of his cards on the desk and took out Norton’s mug shot. “I’m looking for him. I pay good money for information that helps me.”
“Never laid eyes on him. I’ve got work to do. Get the hell out,” said Decker.
“We’re going to run down all the numbers called from the phone booth and your number as well. If any of them match, I’ll be back.”
“Do your worst, bounty hunter,” sneered Decker.
Parker called Molly from the car as he pulled away from the curb. Decker stood in his doorway, watching. A homeless man pushed a shopping cart along the sidewalk, talking to the air. Parker briefed Molly, leaving out the part about Decker’s Glock. “He wasn’t cooperative but I’ve got an idea. Check the numbers called from the pay phone and Decker’s office.”
“Doc, did you think I was a complete moron?” said Molly. “I’ve been doing that all morning. It’s SOP when we know a target has used a payphone. I’ve got, let’s see, about 75 calls to run down. Check with me in a couple of days and I should be able to give any positives.”
“Oh.” No wonder Decker had looked at him with such scorn. Another rookie mistake. Molly had been decent enough not to rub his nose in it. “I’m driving to interview Mrs. Norton next.”
“Have fun,” said Molly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Library Approach

Libraries are great places. I've had a library card ever since I was old enough to get one. I recall needing to check out material with my mother's card before I reached whatever magic age one needed to qualify. Sadly, I probably don't spend enough time borrowing and reading books, especially now that I am trying to be not just a self-published author, but one that people want to read.
My latest gambit into the world of promotion involves libraries. I thought I was totally original with this until I saw the same idea expressed by John Betcher. Let's face it, there is nothing new under the sun, including plots and marketing techniques.
Here's the idea: libraries are open to accepting book donations. Even if they decide not to put them on the shelves, all libraries have "Friends of the Library" auxiliaries that organize sales of books ready to be discarded as well as donations. Excepting books in damaged condition and a few other conditions, they are more than happy to sell books for less than list price. The payoff for the author is exposure. Maybe a reader will like the work enough to be a copy of the next book in the series, or tell somebody else about it.
I can get copies of Win or Go Home for less than half retail and distribute them as I see fit. I could sell them from the trunk of my car, give them away, whatever. I'm going to start with local libraries and expand to Washington State, the novel's setting.
I'm also going to write some press releases for my community newspaper and some of the ones in the Puget Sound area to see if I can generate some author buzz. Can't hurt.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Publishing update

Well, it's the end of the month and sales of Win or Go Home are, well, trickling in. Not entirely unexpected, although I confess to having a few fantasies about being "discovered" and becoming the Next Big Thing in publishing. Well, as the saying goes, the harder I work, the luckier I get.

The first draft of Winner Takes All is done, coming in at a fraction under 95,000 words. I should take the advice of master writers and let it mellow for a bit before I tackle revising it. In fact, there has been a partial revision already because I had written myself into a corner at 60,000 words earlier this year and had to pretty much start from scratch to extricate myself. New version: vastly inproved.

Marketing tasks: here are some links to the Big Three e book sites to find a copy of Win or Go Home. Download a sample. It can't hurt. Besides, it's the 4th of July weekend and you need a good beach read to take to the cabin/shore/mother-in law's.


Barnes and Noble


Monday, June 27, 2011

The end of the beginning

After an intensive weekend, publication of Win or Go Home is a reality. Check Kindle, Nook and Smashwords and you'll find it. If you spot any problems with the book description, or if you perhaps buy the book and spot a typo or other mistake, tweet it, put it in the comments or something. That's what's great about e book publishing: revisions. I am not going to revise the book other than to take care of small stuff. it stands or falls on its own merits at this point.
Now my attention can be focused on finishing the first draft of Winner Takes All, 82,000 words long so far and building toward the climax.
I also need to work on marketing WOGH, a daunting task in that dollars need to be spent, and the question is: how best to spend them?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If you write it, will they come?

Yesterday editor Erin Potter returned the manuscript of Win or Go Home. It had way fewer changes than I expected, making the final walk through easy. Tonight I figured, why not? I uploaded the book to Smashwords and now we'll see who wants to buy it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ready for prime time?

Last night just after 10 I completed my final (?)walk through of the manuscript for Win or Go Home. That's a lie. I still feel compelled to check it for typos and misspellings once more. The point is that I am not going to make any more substantive changes until I get it back from my editor.

I've contracted with Erin Potter to perform the task and expect to send it her way sometime in May. After accepting or rejecting changes I will be ready to submit the book to three e publishing platforms: Smashwords,Kindle and Pub It. There's a bit of an overlap because Smashwords distributes to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but if the book is on the web sites of the big players I stand a better chance of getting readers to look at the books. The royalty schemes are slightly different between them. In another post I'll take a closer look at that.

I've done a lot of thinking about pricing and if I had to decide this moment I would list price for $0.99. Why so cheap, you ask? Nobody knows me. One look at the number of visitors to the blog is evidence of that. If I price the book at $2.99 or more, chances are slim that anyone is going to take a chance on an unknown. Of course I believe it's a good book, but there are a lot of unread good books out there.

JA Konrath, John Lock and Amanda Hocking have sold lots of books for $.99. I think market share is a lot more important than return on a single unit. The price of a gallon of gas today is $3.95 at the station across the road. If I sell my e books for a fraction of that, I think readers will take the chance and put their money down. My fixed costs for producing one novel amount to $900. If I never sell a single copy it won't break the bank. But if I can sell a few hundred copies in the next year, I'll recoup the investment. And there always is the chance that I'll sell more than that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Smashwords update

My self-pub experience continues. There have been fifty downloads of Christmas in Puyallup from the site. So far it hasn't been reviewed by the overlords and isn't yet included in the premium catalog for wider distribution. I updated the cover and that pushed it to the end of the line I think.

I also submitted it for inclusion on Indie eBooks and got a positive response from the site manager. Here is a link: She will feature it around Christmas because it is, after all, a Christmas story. That reminds me. I should post my all time favorite Christmas movies. You might be surprised at what I picked.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cover art

When I published "Christmas on Puyallup" on Smashwords the other day I included as cover art a photo I took at Alcatraz. It's the replica of the cell occupied by Frank Morris, architect of the prison break memorialized in the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood.

Well, a cover needs more than a picture, don't you think? I downloaded a free program called, which allows the user to perform photoshop-like things and probably more than I am capable at the moment. It didn't take me long to create some improvements to the cover, as in a title and the author name.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another update

I'm liking the e publishing business. 41 downloads of my free short short story on Smashwords since yesterday. The weird thing is, I checked the best sellers on Smashwords and most of them seem to be erotica. Not that there's anything WRONG with that. I'm just saying....

Monday, April 18, 2011


Christmas in Puyallup has been successfully published. Now I have to hope it makes it to the premium catalogue.


Last night I downloaded a short story--Christmas in Puyallup--to the Smashwords website for electronic publication. The process isn't over at this writing. There were several hundred submissions ahead of mine, believe it or not. If there aren't any mistakes in my formatting (always a possibility)the story will be available for free downloading by tomorrow. Free, you heard me right the first time. It's only a short story, remember. Consider it an appetizer for the upcoming publication of Win or Go Home. Same main character: a doctor-turned bounty hunter with a brain. I entered the story in a fiction contest sponsored by the University of Minnesota Alumni magazine. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, it didn't win. There were 78 entries and I can do the math. Better odds than Powerball, but still not too good. I'll probably hire someone to do the formatting for the novel. 90,000 words are a lot to handle. Then again, I may only hire someone for the Kindle formatting, which I believe requires the document be in HTML. If anyone knows that not to be true, let me know in the comments. Smashwords formatting doesn't take much computer skill that I can see. When the story is up on the Smashwords site, I'll link it specifically. As it is, you might enjoy going there for a look around anywhere. here you are:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Have You Ever Been Flogged?

It just occurred to me that the title of this post may get me noticed for reasons I didn't intend. Oh well, why not live dangerously? Flogging rhymes with blogging. The best in the business is a guy named Ray Rhamey. He is a novelist/editor who writes a blog called Flogging the Quill:

The key feature is a challenge by Ray for aspiring writers to submit a first chapter and have him critique the first page. He is looking for writing that compels him to turn the first page, in other words, the proverbial hook. The result is a "flogging," although Ray wields a rather gentle whip. Readers are invited to vote on whether or not they would turn the page and to offer their own critiques. I have been flogged three times and am proud to report on the third go round I got Ray to turn the page.

His blog also is chock full of great editing and writing craft tips, well worth perusing the archives. Ray has written a thriller: We the Enemy, a feline Vampire work: The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles and an urban paranormal thriller: Finding Magic. All are available through this link: . You should check him out. Seriously.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why I Won't be Sending a Query

Anyone who has tried to get a book published in the traditional sense knows about queries. A query is the first communication between author and agent. A brief but succinct whiff of prose that communicates the author's voice and a sense of theme and plot. Literary agents receive hundreds to thousands of queries every year. According to the agent blogs I read, every year there are more and more first time authors seeking representation.

When I began my writing career three years and a quarter million words ago, many if not most agents considered only queries that arrived by the US Postal Service. Before long, most joined the electronic age and began considering queries and manuscript submissions sent by email. An already daunting problem became worse now that the authors could fire off queries at less cost and less hassle than before. The agents now had to spend less time responding to the queries that didn't appeal to them. Form rejections became the norm. Some agents began to not send anything if they passed on a query.

Try as they might to assure everyone that it was business, not personal, the take home message for a lot of writers was negative. Legends have existed for years about famous authors rejected by numerous agents and publishers. Part of the process of becoming a writer was the boot camp shared suffering of rejection. Agents and publishers alike continue to try to reassure the majority of writers who are destined never to get even a request for a partial manuscript that their travails are not in vain. If, they say, you persevere and improve your skills, sooner or later we will discover you. Well and good. But what then?

The economic truth is that blockbusters and book club selections drive the traditional publishing business. In the movie Sideways, the main character is a middle school English teacher who has written a lengthy semi-autobiographical novel he is desperate to see published. At least he has gotten far enough along to have an agent. He patiently waits for an answer to the latest submission to a publisher called, ironically, Conundrum. His agent finally returns his call with the bad news that although the novel made it through several levels of editorial review, eventually they passed on the chance to publish.

"I think it's one of those unfortunate cases in the business right now -- a fabulous book with no home. The whole industry's gotten gutless. It's not the quality of the books. It's about the marketing," says Evelyn the agent.

I don't want to be harsh. Publishing is a business. It doesn't exist to make authors feel wonderful or reward them simply because they have spent many hours writing. I get it. I also understand the belief, communicated directly or not by agents, that self-published books are pretty much trash and that the agents are gatekeepers for traditional publishing. Bad books never make it out of the slush pile. Good books are sometimes not recognized at the outset, but cream rises to the top. I have enough ability to self-reflect that my books are not going to be best sellers. Depending on how hard I work at marketing and publicizing them, they might not even be mediocre sellers.

I am a believer in the wisdom of the marketplace. Self published ebook authors are the literary entrepreneurs of the 21st century. The investment in dollars is modest. Time is the largest factor for us. It doesn't cost much to hire a graphic artist, editor and formatter to prepare an ebook. Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and others allow for electronic browsing to help readers pick out what they like. If they want a good beach read or airport thriller, they will find what they want in short order. My goal is to produce a novel that entertains readers. If I succeed, readers will buy my books and tell their friends. I will be motivated to finish my second, third etc book. If I break even with my production costs I will be ecstatic. Perhaps I will be able to afford to have some paperback copies printed and sell them over the Internet. I'm keeping my day job regardless.

All of this would be impossible without the increasing numbers of ebook publishing platforms. The traditional publishing industry will continue as before, although their margins are going to decrease further. More and more new authors will ignore them completely unless they, like Amanda Hocking, become so successful that publishers have bidding wars for their work. I foresee agents being in the middle of the squeeze and having fewer and fewer clients. At this point, why would I want to participate in a process that has such a bleak future?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home Stretch

The arrival of my cover concept energized the editing process and I have made a quantum leap forward. I have eleven pages left to cover in my latest edit/rewrite of Win or Go Home. Word count stands at 87,500 and will pretty much remain there.

What next? I have yet to sit down and read the work from cover to cover. I am literally praying I won't find any major goofs, just typos, tagging inconsistencies and so forth. If there are worse errors, OK, I'll fix them.

Can I do that on my vacation in April? Hey, I want the book to be a good beach read, so what better than to test it on an actual trip? After that I need to confront the likely need for a professional editor to have a go at it. Yes, it will cost money, but if it improves the readability of the book, so be it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cover Time

It's been awhile since I last posted. No, it's not because I've been too distracted by the NCAA men's basketball tournament to do anything, although my bracket is holding up reasonably well, thank you.

Nope, I've just been keeping my nose and shoulder to the wheel, grinding out yet another re-write/revision of Win or Go Home. I'm within 50 pages or so of that milestone, after which I will attempt a cover to cover read of the manuscript wearing my consumer glasses. Then more re-write revision work.

Speaking of covers, I just received the initial concept image of the cover for Win or Go Home from graphic artist Carl Graves. Here is his website :

I found him through author JA Konrath at His prices are affordable and his work is stunning. Check it out.

Now for the cover itself: it's in the upper right hand corner of the post. I'm pretty happy with it. I've asked for a small revision and I'll post the preview when it's available. meanwhile, back to March Madness.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I'm taking one of my many breaks from editing to post a tip for the rest of you in post first draft land. It's nothing I invented, mind you. I forget where I first read about Robert McKee, the author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. is the link. He writes about story telling, not just screenwriting, so it applies to fiction, particularly genre stuff like I am working on. His style reminds me of a dynamic lecture and he is noted for giving seminars that follow the outline of the book.

It's a big (400+ pages) and you may not want to buy it. I did, and even though I haven't made a nickel (yet) with my writing, I think using McKee's road map to analyzing scenes helps my line by line breakdown. That's right: line by line.

If a scene doesn't contain Conflict, an Opening and Closing Value that changes in the scene, Beats (action/reaction of characters) and a Turning point, then I need to change it or get rid of it.

That sentence best describes the McKee's thesis. He illustrates it with numerous examples of notable screenplays: Chinatown, Casablanca, Through a Glass Darkly, to name a few.

Have I whetted your interest? Good. Now, back to work.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Branching Out

My wife spotted an article in the Sunday paper spotlighting a fiction contest open to U of Minnesota alumni and students. In the dark ages of my youth I wrote a few short stories; one was published in the high school literary magazine after the selection committee had my English Professor, Colonel Hagood, take me aside to establish that it was original (it was). Naturally I was simultaneously pleased and outraged that my name was mentioned in the same sentence as plagiarism.

The first draft is complete and on its way to the critique group. Compared to novel writing, a 3000 word story is easy to produce in terms of the time commitment. The rules and objectives are quite different. Another departure is my use of the first person. The three novels I've produced were all in third person. Keeping the point of view consistent and deciding when to change are non-factors in the first person.

The contest deadline is in February. I'm going to keep it under wraps until after the winner is announced. If I don't win, I'll use it to experiment with self publishing and put it out in e-book form for free, if possible. If I win, I'll make a link to the story online. Oh yes, and my wife gets the check.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thick or thin?

At my last critique group a member made the point that some books start thin and with revision get thicker. Convention wisdom in writing circles seems to hold that revisions ought to reduce the length of a book. You must kill your darlings, said William Faulkner. Well, I always found Faulkner wordy beyond belief. I think he could have killed off a few more darlings and his work would not have suffered.

I like Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing, especially number 10: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. That being said, my writing suffers from the story remaining in my mind rather than going on the page. To overcome this I truly rely on members of my critique group to point out glaring (to them) gaps and inconsistencies. I am training myself to step outside my brain and be my own critic, but I'm sure I will always need (and want) an overseer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One quarter

Twenty-five percent finished with the edit. If that sounds like a snail's pace, you aren't alone. I took ten days off for a vacation, brought my memory stick but didn't do anything writing-wise. I mean, it was supposed to be play, not work. Anybody out there believe writing isn't work? I didn't think so.

If I pick up the pace, maybe I can finish by the end of February. Then, get ready all you agents, because I'm going to query like it's 1999.