Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Great Grammar Debate

Dave White at Do Some Damage has rekindled a longstanding debate (I'm sure I responded to this years ago at his old blog...). The question is how important grammar is in the process of learning how to write. He correctly notes that meaning is paramount, but I think he incorrectly wants to make a division between meaning and the grammar and word choice and spelling issues that plague student writing. Anyway, here's his post. Read the comments for our back and forth.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Which I Answer Questions for Al Guthrie...

Al Guthrie, Scots writer of Kiss Her Goodbye among other titles has asked me questions and I've answered.

Here's a link.

All in reference to my latest effort, Lucy Cruz and the Chupacabra Killings. Take a look at the interview. It won't cost a thing. Unless you buy the book... Or one of the others on the site...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Chupacabra Novel

I forgot to give any description of my goatsucker book. I figured I'd correct that with a look at what I wrote up for Amazon:

Photojournalist Lucy Cruz, young, beautiful, talented, and poor, spends her nights sitting outside a farm waiting for El Chupacabra - Puerto Rico's legendary livestock killing beast. The group that hired her want only one clear photo of the animal, but what her camera captures is not one animal killing another - it's murder. When she hands police her photos, she's thrown into a fight for her life against a killer who's only getting started.

When the man she loves is nearly murdered, Lucy races to piece together the clues before the killer's aim improves...

A little cryptozoology tossed into a perfectly good mystery... In fact, while I don't have my main character actually photograph the little beastie, I do have someone offer an alternative explanation of the sightings. Note, however, that cryptozoology is not what the book is mainly about. That's a side issue. What the book is about is murder, plain and simple (if murder ever is such a thing) and what it takes my heroine to stop the murderer before others die. It takes a lot. Just saying.

Anyway, here's what the book looks like (for in case anyone tries selling you a cheap Taiwanese knock-off...):

And here is a clicky-thingy so you can buy it...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Top Ten Movies People Pretend to Have Seen

How do you find out about this stuff? Here's the list:

1. The Godfather (30 per cent)
2. Casablanca (13 per cent)
3. Taxi Driver (11 per cent)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (9 per cent)
5. Reservoir Dogs (8 per cent)
6. This Is Spinal Tap (7 per cent)
7. Apocalypse Now (6 per cent)
8. Goodfellas (5 per cent)
=8. Blade Runner (5 per cent)
10. The Great Escape (4 per cent)

A tip of the hat to Bill Crider.
I've never pretended to see these films. I've seen 1, 2, 4, the tie for eigth, and 10. 2001 is a film I did not enjoy. Blade Runner was marginally better. The Godfather was long but good (Godfather 3 was terrible, I thought). Casablanca is a keeper.

Why would someone pretend to have seen Goodfellas? How does that come up in conversation in such a way that one feels compelled to say "Oh, yeah, that one. Yeah, I saw it..."?

For the ones I haven't seen, let me know if I'm missing much.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

SJ Rozan Stories

Just heard about Building and Other Stories out as a Kindle from SJ Rozan. Rozan is a multiple Edgar nominee (including twice in one year) and an Edgar winner. The stories are fabulous - haven't read all of them, but I've read some and I've read Rozan's work. Trust me.

Many thanks to the Short Mystery Fiction Society for the info.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lee Goldberg says...

Over at Lee Goldberg's most excellent blog, he speaks of the enormous money being made by some self-pubbed e-book writers. Mind you, I'm not one of the success stories just yet... Anywho, he quotes one agent. She "sums up the whole ebook marketplace very nicely: "This is a Wild West of a world."

This is something I'm a little afraid of. I think I write good books. I've gotten good reviews, and good feedback from fans (though I will share one quite angry email in the near future).

What I can't do is turn out four books a year. I probably could if I didn't have a full-time job. I have a couple of good novels not otherwise engaged. I just put one out a few days ago.

I think I'll be putting out another one next month. At the end of the summer, I expect to put out another one. That's three novels in one year and three more than I would have published even if I signed a contract today with one of the NYC publishers. It takes quite a while to bring a hardcover to market. And I do have couple of short story collections out now

and a couple more to come by June. These are mostly previously published stories that I was probably never going to see another dime from.

But I think that in order to start seeing real money*, you have to have a good number of novels out - say at least six or seven. I could be wrong. Maybe two or three novels will be enough to drive sales of the collections and so on, but I don't think so.

Not that I won't have six or seven or more novels out. The three for this year won't be my only three. I expect another two or three will be turned into kindling next year. It's just that in the Wild West, I'm not ever going to be "quick on the draw." I guess that means I'd better make my shots count.

* Define, if you will, real money... I have numbers in mind, but that's another post.

Declan Burke says...

Over at Crime Always Pays, author Declan Burke says, in part:

I’d further suggest that an editor isn’t the only requirement: if you’re going to successful at self-publishing as an e-author, you’ll need (among other things, including a bloody good book) a professional to design your cover, another to format / typeset the work, and you’ll also need to invest heavily (time or money) in promotion. In other words, readers are fully entitled to expect the same quality from their ebooks as they would from a conventionally published title. Any writer who believes epublishing is a cheap shortcut to getting published is taking a cheap shortcut to oblivion.

I'd have to agree with Declan that there's not a "Cheap and easy" way to self-publishing success. The first rule is as it always has been: write a good book, and that's not easy though not financially expensive. (Unless you count your hours working on the book as billable hours.)

I spend dozens of hours editing and formatting and making the covers for my ebooks. Let's say at a minimum 50 hours (after the writing which involves a lot of editing as well) and if I were to be paid $10 an hour, that would be $500 invested. And I would not say I've achieved "success" yet. ("Ever hopeful," says the man with the betting slip in hand...)

And I'm an author who generally produces clean copy and has been through the editing process a bunch of times and who works as an English professor so I'm used to reading with an eye towards finding textual problems.

Amanda Hocking has made a million or more, but as Declan points out in the comments, the amount of promotional work alone was enough to make her want a traditional publishing contract (though I don't see this as a cure since her publisher will want her to ramp up her promotional efforts, not scale them back).

In the comments, someone pointed out that Hocking has achieved her success with bad editing, bad cover designs and generally a bad product. I suppose it depends on how you judge success - Will she win a Pulitzer? No. Will she make a million dollars? Done. I would just point out that Stephanie Meyer has pretty much done the same thing - I don't like her covers, I don't like the little bits of the writing I've read, and I don't think the storylines (I saw the first movie and won't see the others unless it's midnight and I can't sleep and there's nothing else on TV and Netflix is broken and I'm too sick to walk to my dvd player...) are particularly good.

And just to end my tirade, if you want a good book, well edited, try mine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Latest Book...

As announced last week, I've put out a new book this weekend. I don't really know about ebooks much, but my Chupacabra book is out in the cold, cruel world. It's called Lucy Cruz and the Chupacabra Killings and I did the cover myself. I did the rest of it myself as well. And I prepared it for Kindle myself too. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Choke On Your Lies, Part IV

I've been writing about the fact that Anthony Neil Smith is trying to sell a measly 1500 ebook copies of his latest novel, Choke On Your Lies. I just have one final word on this issue. Smith says that if he gets 1500 orders, he'll start work on a second novel featuring his main character, Octavia. He has the ideas for the second book, but wants to be sure he has the readers. Fair enough.

I just thought, however, that Octavia is now being held hostage by Smith. Will she die if Smith doesn't get to 1500? Perhaps in a short story featured on Plots with Guns? It would seem that Octavia can take care of herself, but Neil is really in charge. Sounds strange, no? But then this isn't much different than what's happened since the beginning of time. You bring back the characters the audience loves and you ditch the ones they don't support. Dickens did it - characters that got strong support got extra chapters. Characters that broed the public got onto trains to Wales and never came back.

Shakespeare did it. Falstaff was beloved and came back and back and finally made it into Henry V as an unseen force that haunted the story if not the actual stage.

So if it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for Neil...

Choke On Your Lies, Part III

Yesterday I alerted my dear readers about Anthony Neil Smith's desire to sell a paltry 1500 copies of his latest novel, Choke On Your Lies. I don't know if he's getting any closer, but if he isn't inching along toward that goal, it wno't be because I failed to quote a couple of the reader reviews:

Matt Funk wrote:"Choke on Your Lies is a model of Smith's peculiar spirit. It's a swift, sordid piece featuring flawed people who flail toward happiness at murderous expense, only to find themselves worse for the effort. The twists are plentiful, rendered in the slim borders of punchy chapters that speed to a grim conclusion. All of this is soaked in the sultry atmosphere of the South, a place Smith knows well and evokes without being overdone."

Stephen Blackmoore said:"This book is a cozy the way that Genghis Khan was a people person. We're not talking scrapbooking and knitting needles, chefs who die off-stage and discussions of Gramma's apple pie.

This is Gonzo Cozy and is so full of awesome you won't know what hit you. This is Agatha Christie with a strap-on. If Rex Stout and Hunter S. Thompson did it doggy-style on an ether-binge this would be the result."

J. Strupek said:"This book is an all you can eat buffet of crime, passion, deceit, wounded souls, and bruised emotions served up with a side dish of dark humor. Anthony Neil Smith has once again offered up a story that turns crime fiction on its too often tone deaf ear. Page turner might not apply to an ebook, so lets just call it a screen burner."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Choke on Your Lies, Part II

I wrote about Anthony Neil Smith's desire to sell 1500 ebook copies of his latest novel, Choke On Your Lies. No idea where he is on that particular quest, but I figured I'd offer the product description if nothing else. Here goes:

"A new novel by the author of PSYCHOSOMATIC, YELLOW MEDICINE, and HOGDOGGIN'. Smith presents his homage to one of his favorite detectives, Nero Wolfe, but written for the "internet porn" generation.

Octavia VanderPlatts is wealthy, powerful, and "comfortable with her weight"--or to hear her say it, a "rich fat b****." Her IQ is at the genius level, and she uses it to manipulate and frighten anyone who tries to get in her way. She controls an empire built on discrimination lawsuits won against some of the nation's top companies. On top of that, Octavia doesn't care one wink what people think of her.

So when she offers her old friend poetry professor Mick Thooft some help in his impending divorce, he smells an ulterior motive. Maybe because Frances didn't invite Octavia to the wedding for fear of her clearing the buffet. Not only does Octavia want to help, but she's got evidence--plenty of scandalous photos. That's not Mick's style, so he turns her down flat...until he discovers that Fran's trying to take their home based on a near-perfect forgery of his signature. After that he and Octavia charge forward, but soon find they're in deeper than they realized--robot pens, swinger clubs, and a blackmail scheme that holds an entire college faculty hostage.

Just when Mick and Octavia are on the cusp of victory, it all goes terribly wrong. Mick is framed for murder and someone targets Octavia's immense wealth and secret backyard greenhouse full of exotic marijuana. With no one on their side except Octavia's butler Jennings, her new personal chef Harriet, and their "Amazon Warrior" lawyer Pamela, Octavia and Mick must find a way to turn the tables before they end up broke, humiliated, and in prison."

Anthony Neil Smith...

Here's th deal. AN Smith writes about seriously screwed up people - usually violent people - victims and perpetrators. Nobody gets out alive kind of stories. I haven't read his latest. I'm man enough to admit that. But I have great faith that it is a worthwhile read if you're into truly hardboiled fiction... If you seek a Miss Marple ripoff, you won't enjoy Neil's work. His Miss Marple uses a riding crop for business and pleasure...

All that said, Mr. Smith has put out a new book called Choke on Your Lies. He has a new character in it, Octavia - again I haven't read the book - and he's got some ideas for a second book concerning Octavia, and he's willing to write that second book if he can get 1500 buyers for the first book. No point in writing a second if no one is reading the first.

Now I tend to think that 1500 is a low bar for a writer of Neil's overall quality. Especially since the book is to be had for a mere $1.50. Please help this man reach his goal.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Kindle Novel

A long, long time ago at a Bouchercon far, far away, John Rickards had a lot of fun mocking, yea, verily, mocking my goatsucker novel. He misheard the name and then said things filled with wickedness... I think he did not believe that such a book existed. He thought that the book was as mythical as the beastie.


Okay, maybe not the goatsucker (though maybe; stranger things have happened). But the book certainly does live. I call it Lucy Cruz and the Chupacabra Killings. It will be a Kindle by the weekend. Just reading through a final pass of edits. I changed the book I unwisely mentioned to Rickards from a setting in 1991 to a setting in 2010. That means my photojournalist shouldn't talk about film - instead she talks about memory cards.

You may disbelieve if you like. Chupacabra is coming...

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sing a Sad Song

I'm beginning to think that readers don't want to be saddened. Crazy, no? It seems like readers don't mind being scared - horror writers can do well financially. And they don't mind being puzzled - traditional mysteries don't sell too badly. But if your book is a heartbreaker - a tear-jerker - then it may not do so well? I'm not sure of this. I happen to have written a couple of heartbreaker type stories in my time. They haven't sold. From this scant evidence, I surmise that the market doesn't support weepers.

Personally, I love the gut-wrenching type. I love it when I invest a lot of emotional capital into a character who fails, actually fails. It doesn't happen often in literature. Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor comes to mind.

Don't get me wrong. A happy end can be a good thing too. Hollywood loves that end, no? But always?

Also, don't get me wrong, I've written novels that end Hollywood style. But when my heroes fall, they fall hard.

This type of story has its own emotional life. Why is it that people liked being scared, but don't like being saddened?

Or am I mistaken?

Glenn Beck Moves Out... Steven Torres Moves In

FOX talk show host Glenn Beck is leaving his job and moving on. One assumes there is a brighter future for him somewhere. I don't have cable, so I've never seen his show, but I've seen snippets on broadcast channels (yes, with rabbit ear antenna) and that's enough... Enough to know that I want his job. Not sure if it's open audition or what, but wouldn't that be sweet. If I understand correctly, he bashes people for a living. I could do that*.

Am I conservative enough? I believe in God and think America is a nice country.

Do I know enough about politics? There are two parties in this country, the right one and the wrong one. There's also the Tea party, but it is still in its larval stage.

Do I know enough about economics? Recession bad, depression worse. "What are your plans for fixing the economy? YOU'RE WRONG!"

Do I have the slogans? AMERICA FIRST! Give me a break! That's UnAmerican. What are you? A Francophile? "We gotta neuter and spay them before they breed!"**

* Some my say that as an English professor, I do that already...
** So many uses for that one.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Smartest Blog on Earth...

Megan Abbott and Sara Gran have a joint blog... Okay, that sounds like it's about marijuana. There might be the odd reference, but really it is about the highly literate musings of two of the most powerful writers working in the English language. Think I'm exaggerating (about the power part, not the fact that Megan and Sara are two writers...)? I dare you to read Dope by Ms. Gran or Die a Little by Ms. Abbott and not come to the same conclusion.

Anyway, just thought I'd make this blog known to the four people who stop by here everyday. Hi mom!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Iain Rowan, Part I

Iain Rowan, who puts together wonderfully wicked short stories, has put together a collection of them - a bouquet of evil... It's called Nowhere to Go, after a short story I read and much admired last year. You can see my review over at Nasty.

I said, in part, "Mr. Rowan has put together a tricky story and made it run like clockwork. "

If nothing else, you should mosey over to the Amazon site to see the cover art. Simple and clever.

I'll say more about the collection in coming days.