Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Indie of 2012? It's up to you!


Would you be kind enough to vote for my three books, When Pigs Fly, Little Mountain, and Getting Lucky on Goodreads? It shouldn't take but a minute or two.

1. Go to www.goodreads.com.
2. In the search window, enter the name of the book.
3. When the book page displays, scroll down to the section called "Lists with This Book."
4. Select "Best Indie Books to Read in 2012." This takes you right to the book.

As of December 18th, When Pigs Fly is up to #36 out of over 600, with the other two books not far behind. With your help, maybe one of these can finish as #1.

Thanks!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book review: You Can't Make This Stuff Up


Today, Dennis Rizzo reviews You Cant Make This Stuff Up for us. Thanks, Dennis!

You Can't Make This Stuff Up:
The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction
By Lee Gutkind
270 pp. Da Capo

Reviewed by Dennis C. Rizzo

Lee Gutkind is founding editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine and Writer in Residence at Arizona State University. It follows, then, that he has some experience with the genre.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up brings his cumulative insights to the public in an easy-to-digest and well-structured presentation. Gutkind's narrative style embodies his experience with storytelling. It offers you a seat in a cozy parlour, where you sip wine or tea while listening to the author's casual remarks and anecdotes; not at all like the authoritative text on writing it is.

Creative non-fiction may sound like an oxymoron, but it is reflected in the pieces we read almost every day. Journalism, magazine articles, memoirs, autobiographies; all are non-fiction pieces which can be massaged to read like fiction.

Despite the controversy over its name – or perhaps because of it – creative non-fiction has become the most popular genre in the literary and publishing communities. In the academic community generally, creative non-fiction has become the popular way to write.

Gutkind tells us it is the 'story' that is paramount in all writing, including non-fiction. You Can't Make This Stuff Up is true to his philosophy. In it, he develops our view of creativity within the framework of honest non-fiction writing and skewers those who manufacture or avoid the facts in an effort to build a better story. He speaks of creative non-fiction as a process which one must acquire through practice, and provides examples both from renowned authors and scalawags to illustrate his points. He consistently points to the push and pull between getting a good story and telling the facts.

Truth is personal – it is what we see, assume, and believe, filtered through our own lens and orientation. Although it may revolve around the same subject or issue, the truth as one person perceives it may not be the same truth another person sees. – Because a blurry line exists between fact and truth, readers will usually make a judgement about the veracity of the stories being told and ideas presented based on their faith in the narrator. – Making stuff up, no matter how minor or unimportant, or not being diligent in certifying the accuracy of available information, endangers the bond between writer and reader. ...you must be trustworthy and your facts must be right if you're going to be a credible writer of non-fiction.

The book is divided into two sections. The first deals with defining and explaining “creative” non-fiction, as the author sees it. The definition is certainly definitive, since Gutkind was one of those who defined the genre. The second section provides a series of “how to” exercises and explanations. It offers insight into writing phenomenons, such as the “creative non-fiction dance”; seductive juxtaposition of story and fact.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up provides key elements of the craft of writing creative non-fiction for the professional and amateur writer alike. Professionals may see some of their traditions and sacred cows skewered – or not. Newcomers will find a series of exercises of graduated difficulty which offer a path to honing their craft. Either way, Lee Gutkind gives us the material with which to build our reputations as serious, writers of creative non-fiction.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review of Midnight Rising


Here is a review written by Sue Ellis, a frequent contributor to the Internet Review of Books.

Midnight Rising:
John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War
By Tony Horwitz
365 pp. Picador

Reviewed by Sue Ellis

Click image to purchase
A Photoshopped likeness of John Brown stares from the cover of Midnight Rising. He appears stern, determined, and weary. After reading Tony Horwitz's biography on the man, I think the only thing the photo doesn't reveal is a touch of lunacy.

John Brown was driven to a purpose from an early age by the mentoring of his father, who taught him that it's wrong for a person to own another human being. That credo firmed up in  his mind as he aged, coming to fruition when he was an old man—a man who was deemed a failure by the standards of the day. He was a dreamer and risk-taker who fathered a large brood whom he then had trouble supporting, and he was the probable cause of his second wife's fragile mental state, neglecting her as he did for the cause of abolition.

At nearly sixty, maybe he figured he'd go all out and try to do one thing right in his life, to fight for the thing most dear to his heart. But he didn't limit his ambition to himself; he recruited three sons and a daughter to the cause. In his usual grand, impractical style, he set upon a plan to lay siege to the nation's armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. And he didn't let the fact that he was only able to recruit twenty-one followers discourage him. 

Ten men were killed in action, including two of Brown's sons. Brown and six of his followers were later tried and hanged, and five of his followers escaped, including one son, Owen.

There's no question that the old man was brave. There's no question that his motivation was pure, but the fact is, he martyred himself, his young followers and his family, was responsible for several murders along the way, and instigated a war between the states whose terrible toll still resonates in the  American psyche, regardless of the fact that it set the wheel of racial equality in motion. As Horwitz points out, his actions pretty well fit our current definition of terrorism.

As with any martyr, Brown gained more fame after his death. The court trial and subsequent news stories paid tribute to his clearly spoken, unwavering statement that he was willing to die for his cause. And then he did, without complaint.

After having read Midnight Rising, I'm not sure I perceive Brown the same way the author does, but maybe that's the best thing about biographies that are as well written as Midnight Rising—that we are left to draw our own conclusions. Brown's daring attack on the slave-holding south was so ill-planned as to be considered daft. That it succeeded, at least in the broadest terms, speaks to the idea that, for a few of us, our destiny is preordained.

In the end, I admire the man and his vision for a constitution unmarred by the blight of slavery. Not all heroes are successful businessmen, or born with a pedigree. Brown was an ordinary man who lived his beliefs, treating blacks as equals and welcoming them into his home. It didn't matter that he arrived to meet destiny threadbare, a loser whose military strategy was laughable--he had nonetheless arrived.

From now on, when I run across mention of John Brown in another venue, I'll remember who he was. Not long after reading Midnight Rising, I read Rick Bragg's excellent memoir, All Over but the Shoutin', where he used Brown to describe himself and his wild brothers as children: 

To say we were rotten little children would be like saying John Brown was a little on the impetuous side.

I liked that sentence a lot, and thanks to Tony Horowitz, I understood exactly what it meant.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Two short poems


Here are two poems I entered in a recent contest for members of the El Paso Writers' League.


Canalis dripping
Creosote scent fills the air
September rains fall



A canali on my house

Funny Words
Funny words tickle my head
Like kumquat and doodad
And stuff best left unsaid.
But words I like best
Love, friend, and the rest
Keep me cozy and warm
As I sleep in my bed.







Saturday, December 08, 2012

When the Lings came to Lowell

It's been a good day. The El Paso Writers' League holds an annual writing contest for its members, and prizes were given out today. I won a second prize for Children's Poetry, a first prize for Reminiscence, and a first prize as well as a Best of Best for Fiction. One great aspect of the contest is that the outside judges return critique sheets to the entrants.

Here is my Reminiscence essay:


When the Lings came to Lowell

We met the Ling family at Boston’s Logan Airport in January 1980.  They were a Cambodian family of four that had just arrived from the Site 2 refugee camp in Thailand. The man clasped his hands together to greet my wife and me. Cambodians call the gesture sampeah, which is both a greeting and a sign of respect. He introduced himself and his family: Song, his wife Sceur Ly, their infant Es, his ten-year-old sister-in-law Tong. Only Song spoke, using halting English. He wore a short-sleeved shirt, wrinkled pants, and sandals. Sceur Ly wore a dirty sampot, or sarong. She held Es in her arms. Tong’s clothes looked like rags. Both sisters wore blank expressions on their faces. All their belongings were in one bag of tattered cloth attached to a stick.
As their sponsors, we took them to our house near Lowell, Massachusetts, and showed them their bedroom next to ours. We introduced them to our six-year-old son Jeff and our dog Divot, then showed them around the house. Song marveled at the toilet.
That night we heard constant moaning. Sceur Ly’s teeth had all rotted, and her agony kept her awake. Song’s body shivered. He had a circular welt on his forehead where he had treated himself for a headache—Asian suction cup therapy involves a small cup and a flame to cause a vacuum against the skin. My wife gave him Tylenol and placed her hand on his forehead. It felt like a hot skillet.
The next day, a dentist removed all of Sceur Ly’s teeth, and a doctor diagnosed Song with the first case of malaria the doctor had ever seen. In the next several days, all the children came down with colds, and I contracted double pneumonia. My wife stayed healthy.
Why did the Lings come to America?
In 1975, silence had descended on Cambodia, which shut itself off from the rest of the world. For four years, nothing but stray rumors escaped the Southeast Asian nation. In 1979, communist Vietnam invaded Cambodia and toppled the Khmer Rouge regime that had murdered more than a million of its own countrymen. A mass exodus of refugees followed, with hundreds of thousands of people walking through the jungle to makeshift camps in Thailand. There they huddled and received humanitarian aid from many countries and organizations. But the camps were meant to be temporary, and many refugees found homes in France and the United States.
Lowell, Massachusetts became a major destination for many Cambodians. One reason was the presence of Wang Laboratories, a major employer in the city during the 1970s and 1980s. That the company’s president was the Chinese-born Dr. An Wang may have helped convey an aura of openness to foreigners. Wang Laboratories employed many of the newcomers, who earned a reputation as diligent workers. Massachusetts also provided benefits more readily than some other states, and the growing number of refugees fed on itself and attracted more.
The Lings were one of the first refugee families in the area. Outside of the usual milestones every family faces, sponsoring them was the most momentous experience of our lives. We learned about human generosity and prejudice, cultural conflicts, our country, and ourselves. Friends and strangers donated clothing, dishes, soap, food, and a little money. We also received a couple of anonymous letters and phone calls suggesting that we and the Lings should all go to Cambodia and stay there. A letter addressed to Tong contained a newspaper photo of her face, marked in ink with horns and sharp teeth, like Satan. We never told her about it.
They spent seven weeks in our house, far longer than the few days refugees spent in other sponsors’ homes. We should have let them go their own way sooner, but we all bonded, and the crises seemed to come one after another. We also wanted to make sure they found jobs so they wouldn’t need charity.
America was an alien land. Song looked around at New England’s bare trees and asked my wife, “Missy. Why all trees are dead?” One day he said, “Dogs taste good. In Cambodia, dog number one.” That worried me, because they spent plenty of time alone with Divot. So I looked him in the eye and said, “You hurt my dog, you number ten!” He got the message, and Divot was safe. But Song’s biggest difficulties came with his family. In America, women had too much freedom. Sceur Ly and Tong learned that they could make many of their own life decisions and have the support of their American friends. In time, Song came to see me as weak because I often deferred to my wife’s choices and never hit her.
Tension simmered inside their family when my wife, son and I were away at work and school. Song quickly saw his authority eroding in a new society where women were not subservient. Thus he was happy to finally get his own apartment, where he expected to re-assert himself with force. We broke up more than one altercation, telling Song that wife-beating was illegal.  When he protested that it was a “Cambodian custom,” we made it clear that such “customs” would land him in jail. Sceur Ly came to us privately to ask for help in obtaining a divorce, but when given the chance she never followed through.

Song’s rapidly growing English skills made him important among the newer refugees. He translated many conversations and documents for them but gained a reputation for cheating his own people. Rumors began to circulate among both Cambodians and Americans that he had been Khmer Rouge. As angry as his wife and her sister were with him, they denied the charge. He was a bad man, they said, but not that bad.
Nothing could ignite Song’s anger more quickly than his young sister-in-law, who defied him whenever she could. Tong went to public school and excelled, becoming ever more eager to stay away from him. We stayed close to the women of the family for years, meanwhile learning about the rest of the family left behind at the Site 2 refugee camp in Thailand. Among them were Sceur Ly and Tong’s parents and siblings. Their attempts to reunite were met with continual failure. They asked us and other Americans to help.
It took community involvement, filling out immigration forms, speaking with the State Department, and engaging local Congressman Chester Atkins, but eventually the entire family was reunited in Lowell. That doesn’t mean an entirely happy ending, though. Atkins’s high-profile efforts stoked resentment among many of his constituents who felt he wasn’t paying enough attention to their concerns, and he was defeated in his re-election bid. Some citizens felt that the government was giving too much to the refugees. One man complained on the local TV news that Cambodians were being given new cars, which was untrue.
For the most part, the Cambodians assimilated reasonably well. Many became citizens, and some migrated back to Cambodia once it became a safer place. Some became doctors and lawyers in Lowell; one became a city councilor. Tong earned a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University. Song became a landlord. Tom Brokaw produced a nationally televised feature about the family. One night, we watched Song on television, telling Brokaw that he worked hard but that his fellow Cambodians were lazy.
In time Song and Sceur Ly moved to Rhode Island, and we began to see them much less often. But every few months our doorbell would ring, and there would be Sceur Ly with a warm smile on her face. In one hand she would be holding her son Es, and in the other a box of jelly donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts. We never knew she was coming, and she never showed up without a gift.
We lost track of them a decade ago, and perhaps it’s just as well. They have an extended family within reach now, with all the joy and pain that can bring. Now we live in New Mexico, over two thousand miles away, but we will always have the rich layer they added to our lives.

Friday, November 16, 2012

K. W. McCabe and her Angel of Death


Today's post features K. W. McCabe, author of the novella Angel of Death. It's a 99-cent ebook that belongs on the Kindle of any lover of fantasies. I asked her a few questions the other day:

What motivated you to write Angel of Death?

I actually wrote Angel of Death as an answer to a request a few readers made - they had read Thomas' earlier stories and wanted a contemporary, romantic twist on his dark tale. So, during a really dark period where I was experiencing a tough bout of writer's block, I thought of that request and it broke my block and inspired Thomas' and Sarah's story. 

Why does Sarah have to be pure? And does pure mean perfect? 

I think the meaning of what "purity" is, is something tough to think about. Purity always means different things to different people. Truthfully, I wouldn't want to live in Thomas' and Sarah's world - a world where children can be corrupted permanently by things that aren't their fault. Yet their world is very similar to ours. Children are hurt and corrupted, and in ways that damage forever. I think, in a world like that, purity is needed to combat corruption, and I've always felt that the true definition of purity was love. I think that Sarah represented that - the refusal to choose the selfish path - such as staying when someone else would die in her place. In Sarah's and Thomas' world, the Choice represented the chance to choose the purer meaning of love - or choose the selfish path. I don't think that being pure means being perfect. I think a purity of heart and purpose stems from the ability to see one's self truly - to see the warts and ugliness - and choose the right way in spite of that. 

What's on your bookshelf? Tell me about your favorite fantasy authors.

Oh, man. I rave about Michelle Sagara West all over the place! So she's number one on my shelf. I also like Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. My favorite are the first three books - the rest were good, but the first three were epic.

Why do you write?

I used to write because I loved the idea of living in a world that was different than the one I occupied. This is still true, but I also write because it's almost an addiction. There are times when I don't write, but I never stop thinking about it.

I encourage people to support indie writers like K. W. McCabe and suggest that fantasy readers buy her ebook at http://bit.ly/angel_of_death.





Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mysteries of marketing

Life is an accumulation of mysteries. Why does the universe exist? Why does gravity work? Does intelligent life exist outside terra firma? And why do my book sales chug along nicely for months and suddenly fall through the floor?

Okay, my marketing has not been a model of relentless consistency this year, but the monthly check from Amazon for my three self-published books has been nice to see. The payments have always been a couple hundred dollars or more, but halfway through this month my royalties are under fifty bucks. (I can hear you now: Oh, you poor baby. Whine, whine, whine.) Mainly, this post is meant to puzzle out the reason in public so more can benefit.

These are e-books only, selling on Amazon at $2.99 with a 70 percent commission. Using their KDP Select program, Amazon Prime members borrow copies and yield a nice return to me. My marketing effort has depended mostly on Twitter, where response is typically good. I have worked hard with TweetAdder to build up my number of followers, which now is over 7,000. Then--oops--Twitter told me I was using them too aggressively and suspended my account until I promised to behave. So I scaled way back on following and unfollowing. The result was immediate. My sales plummeted, because my tweets constantly need to appear before fresh, new eyeballs. Twitter says it's okay to follow people one by one, but that's a glacial pace. Meanwhile, giveaways help a little, but of course they mainly move product for free.

Obviously, depending on one vehicle, Twitter, is a real marketing weakness. But it really does seem far and away the best means of selling large numbers of low-priced ebooks. Blogs and Facebook are good, but tend to reach the same people. That means you can't constantly pitch to them without alienating them.

What has been other people's experience? I'm happy to share more details of my own.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rodeo and points west

We just returned from a 10-day RV trip to Rancho Cucamonga, California. It's a pretty city, with bougainvillea showing their scarlet blossoms. The name is curious, though; I'll have to look up its origin. I must say, southern California freeway traffic deserves its reputation as being not for the fainthearted. At the beginning of our jaunt, we had stayed in desolate Rodeo, New Mexico. No phone, no wi-fi, a gas station that's open only a few days a week, a couple of decent diners, and Rusty's RV Park, where you can look out at the Milky Way at night in complete silence if you like. It's truly a place to be alone.

Mountains outside Rodeo, New Mexico
Nearby is the tiny town of Portal, Arizona, where we and some RV friends stopped because we'd taken a wrong turn. Portal appears to be smaller than Rodeo, but it isn't too small to have an Octoberfest in front of its post office, where a few dozen people were selling crafts, milling about, shopping, occasionally dancing, and generally having a good time. There was a table selling local authors' books, and I purchased The House of the Scorpion, a National Book Award winner by Nancy Farmer. The book has 384 reviews averaging over 4 stars on Amazon. I'm impressed!


Rose, Rancho Cucamonga

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Heaven Should Fall Blog Tour

I'm honored to be a part of Rebecca Coleman's fun book tour for Heaven Should Fall. The tour began October 1 at Book Trib with each stop offering up a brief excerpt. I have a copy that I haven't read yet, but it's high on my TBR list.


Excerpt
Thanks for all the packages. You make a mean chocolate chip cookie.” He turned to Cade. “I need a smoke so bad I’m ready to go on a shooting spree.”

“I don’t think you can say that in an airport.”

“If they throw me out I can get to my smokes faster.”


★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★



Kudos for Kingdom of Childhood from  The Guardian
A serious page turner.

Follow the tour! To join it from the beginning, go to http://booktrib.com/blog-tour-heaven-should-fall-by-rebecca-coleman/.

Then you can follow along on Twitter using the hashtag
#HeavenShouldFall and Rebecca Coleman’s Twitter handle @RebeccaCBooks.

Buy it right here:


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Exploring QR codes

You've seen them everywhere--those little squares consisting of black and white marks that appear in newspapers, magazines, on coffee cups, even on t-shirts. They are quick response codes, or QR codes that are meant for consumers to grab information and perhaps buy immediately. We are living in a world of iPhones and Androids now, meaning that we carry the equivalent of electronic Swiss Army knives. Not only can we phone or text friends, we can check calendars, take notes, play games, read news and books, and take photographs. (To be sure, that list is incomplete.)

It's that last capability, taking photos, that makes QR codes so important. If you download one of the many free QR reader such as this one from Kaywa and see a QR code, just open the reader, take a quick snapshot of the code, tap on the photo, and your phone's browser is redirected to the encoded location. Here, for example, is the first QR code I ever created. Scan it with your phone, and you'll be taken to my Amazon page where all my books are for sale.

How many consumers scan these codes? I don't know yet, but the technology is free and easy, so it's going to be fun to find out. I suspect that over time, QR codes will be a real boon to us self-publishers and do-it-yourself marketers.

Have you tried using them, either as a seller or as a consumer?


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Talking to yourself

If you stand on a street corner or walk down the grocery aisle and talk to yourself, people might think you're a little touched. That's certainly what I thought about a woman a few years ago when I saw her apparently chatting with a display of sirloin steaks--that hands-free Bluetooth device of hers sure had me fooled.

Chances are, most of us talk to ourselves now and then, and we just sorta keep it low-key and not too public. But if you're a writer, you should talk to yourself now and then. Read with your lips and your larynx to hear and feel the flow of your words. No, no, don't read newspapers or books that way, just the drafts of your own work. You'll find those double words and repeated sentences, the phrasing that doesn't sound quite right. Maybe you'll spot a passive voice or an incomplete sentence.

The point is to use more than just your sense of sight. Use your sense of hearing as well, and you will pick up on those errors that might otherwise slide right past you.

Right now I'm typing with the office door closed, so my wife doesn't hear me talking to myself.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Make the most of Twitter

The other day I reached 6,000 followers on Twitter. Why is that worth mentioning? Because of the  power of retweeting, Twitter is a highly effective means of reaching readers. That feature allows you the potential of reaching many times more than the number of followers you have. A lot of these followers are going to be ebook  owners, and a lot of them are willing to spend a small amount of money to try out an unknown author. For me, $2.99 seems an effective price point.

On Twitter you can find them by searching for hashtags (#) that categorize topics. Some that I've found useful are: #kindle, #writing, #amwriting, #amreading, #mysteries, #humor, #crime, #books, and #ebooks. A search will display recent tweets that have included those hashtags. Then I suggest you follow a number of those people, and retweet some of their messages. Many of those people will follow you back.

Twitter sets follower limits but doesn't publicize them. You just know you've reached a limit when they tell you, but that is not a problem. Send out some tweets and retweets, and soon you'll find you can follow more people. Be patient with trying to grow your follower list. It seems Twitter just doesn't want people to abuse the system or weigh it down.

I'd suggest you use some other tools to complement Twitter. There are many, but I'll tell you what I'm familiar with. Twellow allows you to search for people by subject matter. What I like about it is that it lists people with your interests in descending order by number of followers. So if you search for mysteries and someone saying she likes mysteries has a million followers, that person is listed first, or close to it. You want to follow people who have a lot of followers, within reason. But if Oprah or Eminem say they like mysteries and has ten million followers, it may not serve your marketing purposes to follow them. Chances are about zero that they'll follow you back. When a celebrity has a million followers but only follows 15 people, that's a sign to move on. There are plenty of people who follow and are followed by thousands, and you should focus on them--any number down to just a few hundred.

You might also try a scheduling tool such as Timely. I use mine to list a weekend's worth of tweets and have them go out on a predetermined schedule so it doesn't look like you're spamming Twitter.

So far, what I've mentioned is all free. If you get serious about using Twitter and can spare the cash, you might consider TweetAdder to automate your follows. First I suggest you try collecting followers without it and see how well you fare in selling your ebooks. When you get to the point where you're making some sales, then I'd spring for TweetAdder at $55.

What's been your experience? Have you used other tools we should know about?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A few words about Lendink

Recently, a lot of us learned of an ebook-borrowing site called Lendink. What a stir it caused, with twisted knickers everywhere, including my own. All three of my titles were listed as being available on the site. They weren't going to charge for borrowing, so what were they doing? Stealing our work? The site had a hard-to-read FAQ page explaining among other things that they didn't maintain copies of the books or even the covers. All they were doing--or attempting--was to match up owners of books with others who might want to borrow them.

Hmmm. Can you spell trouble? How about L-e-n-d-i-n-k? Amazon has its own policies regarding borrowing, and of course we authors want a say in what happens to our works. It wasn't totally clear to me whether Lendink maintained any connection with Amazon, so I wrote Amazon. Here is their reply dated August 3:


Hello,

We have not authorized lendink.com to loan your book and have not provided your file to them.

If you've found your work available on an unauthorized website such as lendink.com, we suggest contacting that website to confirm your rights and request removal of your work. If you distribute your book through other sales channels, you might contact them to inquire as to whether they have authorized the inclusion of your book on lendink.com.

Our lending program allows a purchaser to lend a title once and does not allow the recipient to re-loan that book. For more information about Kindle book lending, check out this page:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200549320&#loan

I hope this helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.








Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Meeting new friends

Santee Lakes, Santee, California

We're meeting some interesting people on our RV trip. In San Diego, we were both sitting outdoors reading books, and a gentleman stopped by to comment about what we were doing. It's great to see people who are  fellow readers, he said. Okay, so besides being sociable, he may have had another motive--his t-shirt read, "Ask me about my book," and of course there was a picture of his book. That led to a couple of lengthy and enjoyable conversations with Ralph Cates, author of Black October and member of a local writers' group. We swapped books and email addresses and agreed to stay in touch. He's done a good job of hand-selling copies of his books at various RV sites, though that's not something I've ever felt comfortable doing.

Last night, as we were strolling through the RV park in Utah, a couple spoke to us and we wound up chatting for a good twenty minutes. They had an impressive-looking telescope and were waiting for the sun to go down. Nothing remarkable about our chat, and the subject of books never came up. But in an RV park you can usually strike up enjoyable conversations with total strangers. Once in a while there's a click and you both agree to stay in touch, and other times you just spend a pleasant few minutes and that's all there is.






















Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Fun Times at the Corner Cafe

This month I'm pleased to be part of the publication of The Corner Café, a dandy little collection of short stories by a group of indie writers. You can learn more and buy it on Amazon at http://bitly.com/Cornercafe. The cost is only $0.99, and all royalties will go to a charity that promotes literacy.

Now (drumroll, please) I'd like to introduce my guest and cyber friend Stephen Tremp. The floor is yours, Steve:

Today I thought I’d have a little fun and blog about really bad ideas writers conceptualize when developing a new story. Not every idea is a good idea. And sometimes we only see this in retrospect, after spending many valuable hours trying to write the story.
This is not Steve Tremp.
Hmm. This isn't him either.
Example: a few years ago I wanted to do a private eye series. The protagonist, named Dave McCracken, lived and worked in Manhattan. The first book in the series opened with him failing miserably in a particular case where the bad guy got away and killed an innocent person. Dave knew he needed a street smart sidekick. Little did he know his future partner would be a black crack whore with a bad attitude.   Another character was an informant Dave would get valuable information from. He was a cab driver and would see a lot of things happening on the streets at night and hear things from people he drove around. His name: Hack. That’s it. Just plain Hack. Together, the three incompatible misfits solved crimes.   I wrote a few chapters and outlined a few more. After a couple weeks I stood back and took a look at my work. It was then I realized that this was one of the stupidest things I had ever read. Two weeks wasted, down the drain.   After receiving feedback from people, I can see that I might have something of significance lying dormant with the really dumb idea I had. Perhaps there is a spoof in there, consisting of a white bungling PI, a black crack head hooker, and a surly middle-eastern cab driver. Part of the slap stick conflict between the characters could arise from this diversity.   Each book in the series would present a new cast of supporting characters, such as families who hire the PI, the suspects, local police, and people in the neighborhood such as shop owners. Crime fighting comedies include Reno 911, the Keystone Cops, Barney Fife, Police Academy, the Naked Gun series, among many others.   Although I like taking calculated risks, I would be stepping into a new genre, and one I’m not confident I am able to write. But I do see potential. Just not sure I want to step off this particular cliff.

Question: Have you ever changed genres? Have you thought about making the leap?   Stephen Tremp blogs at Breakthrough Blogs and is the author of the Breakthrough Trilogy.   If you feel this blog is worthy, go ahead and make my day. Retweet.

Oh, here is Stephen Tremp.

Next up in the Blog Book Tour for The Corner Cafe: June 6 Red Tash interviews Dani Greer at http://RedTash.com

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review of GOTU: A Thriller with Speed and Attitude

Right from the opening scene, GOTU is an action-packed thriller that moves with the speed and attitude of a .44 slug. Sergeant Robin Marlette supervises Arizona's drug enforcement unit, known informally to its members as Guardians Of The Universe, or GOTU. Their job is to stop the worst of the bad guys from crossing the Mexican border with illegal drugs, and they don't exactly issue traffic citations. Robin is the ideal leader, who inspires his men to follow him anywhere. He is a fine family man, which is a crucial fact about him--if the bad guys shoot at the GOTU crew, that's business. But when they threaten Robin's family, they make the worst mistake of their miserable lives. At times he almost seems too perfect, but then we learn that he isn't.


With his background in Arizona law enforcement, author Mike McNeff certainly knows his stuff. There's never a dull moment in GOTU, especially when it comes to gunfights. It's a crisply written, satisfying read.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review of The Devil of Light

I posted the following review on Amazon. If you like your fiction dark, read this one. This author is good.

Gae-Lynn Woods has written a dark thriller that plumbs the depths of evil in a small Texas town. Hitch, an ex-convict, comes to Arcadia and finds a man of means who will pay him to take care of certain unpleasant business. Hitch takes much pleasure in his work, which includes amputations, torture, and spectacular displays of cruelty. Ms. Woods writes exceptionally well, with good dialogue, smooth writing, and vivid details that will make the reader wince--take "brain drain" as a hint. Much of the story is told from the police investigators' point of view, and they certainly have their hands full. But then Arcadia may not be the only town graced by Hitch's presence, because "evil always finds a home."


Fans of James Lee Burke will enjoy The Devil of Light for the way Ms. Woods exposes human depravity. This looks like the beginning of a compelling series.