Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Backbeat to Beatlemania

If there is one thing that Tony Broadbent brings to the written page, it is the colloquial perverseness that can be found in the jargon of the home turf of the English language, England. His new novel/thriller, THE ONE AFTER 9:09, does it and does it well. I discovered Mr. Broadbent a few years back at the Mystery Writers conference at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California where he brought an engaging wit and style to the discussions. After reading his three book ‘SMOKE’ series about Jethro, a burglar with more on his plate than nipping some rich dowager’s jewels, Broadbent turns to what could be his second loves, rock-and-roll and the Beatles.

Now I ask you, would you write a thriller about the most famous and most fantabulous rock and roll group since, like, forever? Would you even think of trying? The Beatles are chronicled in a thousand books and stories, videos, posters, handbills, and even some of the earliest bobble-head dolls. Gutsy work on the part of Mr. Broadbent, damn gutsy—and, to write a thriller, damn cheeky too.

We’ve moved from Jethro’s ruined post-World War Two London of the late 1940s to Liverpool 1961. Social disruption is the norm; the economy is in tatters, the kids—all products of the war itself, are searching for something, something they can call their own—and its rock and roll. In the cellars of Hamburg and Liverpool a new sound rises, a sound that slams you in the gut, makes the boys jump, and the girls get all excited and I mean, really, really excited.

Mr. Broadbent’s tale is of money, promoters, ambition, culture, rival rock and roll clubs, and men bent on causing as much trouble as possible. It is the story of Brian Epstein and his desperate desire to manage these mop-heads to their fame and his fortune. It is a story of deals, double-dealing, failures and success. A book very hard to set down. Well recommended.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Couple of Book Reviews

Daniel Silva – The English Spy
I become a Gabriel Allon fan, it has taken me a few of Silva’s books to get here, but after The English Girl and now The English Spy, I’m hooked. In The English Spy, Silva takes us on a tour of nastier underside of Europe (and some of the nice spots as well). From the dark alleys and country lanes of Northern Ireland to the sunny ruas of Lisbon, there are no shortages of touristy stops and dead (as in body) ends. London, Rome, even Corsica come into play as an international terrorist and bomber, who works for the highest bidder, pushes his way back into Allon’s tragic past. All the big players are here: British intelligence, Israeli Mossad, Russia, and the IRA. As usual Silva plays his spy games across the world.

If there is one complaint is that Silva has become more brutal. There seems to be a moral ambivalence seeping into his characters, and sadly Allon as well. There was always a morality and justification to Allon’s assassinations, in this book it seemed to be more about vengeance and retribution, anything goes in trying to find the killer of women, children and possibly the man who killed Allon’s son and destroyed his wife.

As always Daniel Silva leaves the door slightly ajar at the end giving us a peek into the next chapter in Gabriel Allon’s life – as father and head of Israel’s intelligence operations. Boy, is Allon’s life about to get complicated.

I give it a strong recommendation.

Andy Weir – The Martian

Sometime a book just grabs you from the start – and as a writer it make me soooo jealous. Andy Weir’s The Martian is such a book. What would you do if trapped on a desert island: Robinson Crusoe, Cast Away, Lost? That story has been told a dozen times. What would you do if abandoned on a planet that is 70 million miles away from earth, has no air to breath, is colder on a summer day than the most frigid winter in Antarctica? Most likely we would all be dead after whimpering for a few months until the food runs out. Not Mark Watney – so sir, he—in the best MacGyver tradition—literally makes life on Mars bearable and survivable. This is a story of creative destruction, adaptation, politics (yes, there is an Earth component), loneliness, defeat, and great triumph. Heroes abound, there are no bad guys (other than the damn planet that is trying to kill him every second of every hour of every day). The Martian is a great read.

Mr. Weir does a spectacular job with the technical details, while I have no idea if his jury-rigged contraptions are real; I’ve not heard one word from the science community that what he presented wasn’t plausible and possible. You can believe this book; you do believe that this can or will happen someday in the near future.

I also admire Weir’s tenacity in getting this book published, first serialized on his own website, then to Amazon (where it made its mark) then to Crown for a tidy (though I think low) sum. Now it’s to be a Ridley Scott and Matt Damon movie out in October 2015. I listened to this book through Audible – one of the best reads I’ve heard- - it won an Audie Award in 2014. All I can say is great job and I recommend this to anyone – geek or not.

A must read recommendation.

More Later . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


It has been a while since I’ve updated my readers on where I am in the world of publishing and what projects I am working on. It has been a busy year posting new books online, setting up print versions, scheduling books on new promotion avenues and beginning research on a couple of new thrillers.

So here we go:
Diamonds For Death was released in January for both print and ebook sales, we did a promotion and book signing at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California on February 15th. All to the good, reviews have been outstanding, sales could be better, but it’s not the content it’s the marketing department (since I am the marketing department, I need to set up a meeting and kick some ass).

I brought out a new character this spring and the start of a new series. Anthony Alfano, (Tony to the few friends he has), is a veteran Chicago police detective during the Depression of the 1930s. Chicago Swing begins with seemingly random and brutal bombings in downtown Chicago in the weeks before the start of the Century of Progress World’s Fair. Tony has to fight corrupt Chicago politics and the remains of the Chicago underworld to find the bomber and stop them before they kill thousands at the fair. The reviews have been great, and I was thrilled when one called it killer Noir. I have just finished the first draft of the next book in the series Chicago Jazz. Should be out this winter. These are short and fast paced, word count at 60,000 (most thrillers are in the 95-110,000 word count – or more). For now this is only available in ebook format from Amazon – click the cover in the above left column and it’s yours for $2.99.

By the way, I have also dropped all the ebook prices for the Sharon O’Mara books to $2.99. The only exception is Land Swap For Death (where it all began) that is still at $0.99. Click the covers and they can be yours.

I have my World War II thriller This Face of Evil on the desk of an agent who has promised to read it. I believe in promises, I believe in this agent. But I also am not going to sit around for months waiting. Unlike wine, a good book does not better sitting around unread or unpublished. It wants to live in the real world of readers. I will remain patient for a time, and then we will see what happens.

Future Work:
There is a great character in This Face of Evil that wants (is demanding) a sequel, and I may give it to him. Something dealing with the end of the WWII and the impact it had on the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. Even though it was almost seventy years ago much of the nasty mischief by Hitler and his association with radical Islamists is still with us. So there is much to research and develop.

Current research is going into a new contemporary thriller that takes place over four days in Venice. A new character—a Cleveland cop—is running away from a failed marriage (her cop husband has been sent to jail) to Venice. She does not find peace and escape but gets caught in the middle between the bad business of the Balkan war, Cleveland gangs, and the FBI. It already has me hooked.

Sharon’s on vacation—or at least that’s what I tell myself. After five books in four years she’s off on one of her “me” times. At least that’s what her emails brag about: big fish, suntans, scotch, and a Frenchman. But there is a rumor that the next Sharon O’Mara Chronicle will take place in Ireland, includes an important birthday, a castle, smugglers, and a very nasty Albanian bitch. Just saying.

As always we are trying every imaginable idea to push the books out there. The recent idea of book promotion sites (Freebooksy, BookBub, Booksends, etc.) is working—at least to a degree. Right now getting our name out is as important as real sales. In mid-June we did a free book release of Toulouse For Death that had almost 4,000 downloads. Not bad for an investment of less than $100. And a lot cheaper than putting together a book tour where only three people show up.

We are looking, for now, to release the Tony Alfano thrillers as ebooks, thus saving both time and investment in paper. While we use paper book distributors such as IngramSpark and CreateSpace (both print-on-demand), I still have to manufacture the InDesign files, formatting, and cover art. All time consuming. I do use the cover art as a reference for the book (often generated in the middle of the draft) to help me visualize the book (the Chicago Jazz cover above is an example). But for now the world is ebooks for thrillers, crime stories, and mysteries (and romance and erotica—so I’ve been told).

I have a very busy fall ahead of me. If I meet my goals I will be one very happy and mentally exhausted fellow.

More Later . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

7 Things Indie-Writers Need to Know

There’s tons of advice posted by some very good writers and bloggers on what the independent writer (and publisher) needs to know to be successful. So here are a few of my points. Some of this advice is—slap the forehead—obvious. Some of it is what I’ve learned in almost twenty five years of self-publishing, and some is in response to the massive changes currently underway in the publishing industry. All of these will impact you at some level, and some more than others. This list, like all lists, is a reflection of the writer’s (me) current sate of understanding of the chaos that is publishing. There are a hundred ways to make and bake a cake, and considering that last year more than 2 million novels were published (using innumerable methods and practices), you can literally have your cake and eat it too.

So let’s jump in and see what’s in store for writers, authors, and poets these days.

1. What do you want out of your craft?
It is critical, in order to avoid complete ego meltdown and terminal disappoint, that you have conversation with yourself (and maybe a close friend—wives and husbands are good) about what you want. Do you write for the fun and enjoyment of telling stories and entertaining yourself and your friends? Are you a hobbyist? Do you want to start a series and see what the characters will do? Do you want to become the next Gresham, Roberts, Patterson (pick one), and Child? Do you want to be traditionally published and/or do you want to be the master of your fate (for good and ill)? Do you want this to be your sole source of income? It is critical at some point of your career, it may not be in the first year but it surely will be during the first two or three years, to make such choices. It can and will change, but make the first step. Build a timeline, learn about the industry, go to conferences, meet people, help other writers, give back a lot more than you take. Like any profession it takes thousands of hours of work and honing your skills to make it – and the higher the expectations the more intense the work.

2. Keep up with the world of publishing.
There are great blogs out there that pass on (for free), pages and pages of ideas, hints, facts, and how-to’s. Subscribe to them, read them, take notes. One of the best on the profession of publishing is Digital Book World Daily (go here), individual memberships are worth the price of about 30 cents a day. There are many others, and many in each genre from erotic to romance to thrillers. Jump in as deep as you want. Join the IBPA. This organization, the Independent Book Publishers Association, is a wealth of information and you get the monthly magazine with killer articles on publishing. It is a must.

3. Be organized.
This is a lot like when your mother told you to clean up your room. I’m a piler. I stack all my emails (ones I print for future reference), magazines, notebooks, and drafts in great piles around my office. I then totally mess them up and forget what’s where. Be organized, set up a system, stick to it, get drawers to put files in—Don’t be a piler!

4. Get the best software you can afford.
At some point you will be taking that handwritten mess of a manuscript and converting into a readable MS that might even get to an agent. I use Microsoft Word, some swear by Scrivener and a few other applications out there. The last thing I want to do is fight the technology. MS Word may have some issues, but they are minor compared to the strength of the application. I also have started to use Grammarly, OneNote (see organized above), and a funky program called SmartEdit. They all help to clean up the MS and often fix problems before they get too messy. I work in both Apple and PC worlds, but mostly in Apple. I put my drafts in both the Cloud (pick one), in a separate hard drive through scheduled backups on Time Machine, and on memory sticks. You can never have the MS in enough places when your hard drive decides to kill itself. Most editors use Track Changes in Word, so it’s critical that you learn how to use this as well. Again this is a part of being organized.

5. Writing is hard; you are in it for the long haul.
The late Tom Clancy is famous for saying that writing is the hardest work he’s ever done. His research, his stories, and his need to make them fit into an ever changing world of international politics and human folly drove him to be a perfectionist. Most writers are proud of their work, they want it right and they want it to make a difference to the reader. And that means all genres whether they are that cute cozy with the cats on the cover or that nasty true detective blond cutie with the big…gun. Write like you are telling the greatest secrets in the world, even if they might embarrass your mother, she’ll get over it. There are few bad stories, only poorly written ones. Learn the difference.

6. There are no miracles, only persistence and luck.
Stop complaining about E.L. James and the Grey books, just get over it; I’ve almost been able to. Maybe a couple of more sessions with Johnnie Walker and I’ll get there. Luck and the readers collide in strange and interesting ways. The Bridges of Madison County, Fifty Shades of Grey, and dozens of other books struck a chord with readers and become sensations (and big money makers). But, for the rest of us less talented writers, we march on and sell one book at a time, meet one reader at a time, and hope for good fortune. You can’t win if you don’t show up. For all of Ms. James literary shortcomings, she still self-published, worked hard to find an audience, did okay then found a publisher who made it happen—big time. She and other indies writers, such as Russell Blake and Hugh Howey, are my heroes.

7. Use the new marketing platforms.
My previous blogs have pointed to a growing phenomenon of promotional blogs and subscription web sites that, for a fee, give you a one-day marketing shot. Use them, understand them, make a plan and follow it. A bookstore signing may get you ten people if you’re lucky (see above), but they don’t know you and these signings are expensive on a per book basis. These internet promotional sites get your name and your book out in front of ten of thousands of potential readers – for pennies a contact. Use them.

Bonus: Write more books
One book does not make an author. Write more stories, extend that series to five or ten books, diversify your genres, write short stories, novellas, poems, ad copy for your church, a blog. Each work becomes part of your repertoire and, like exercise helps your stay fit, you build on your writing skills day by day. One goal might be to write at least 500 words a day (or 3,000 a week). That’s’ more than 150,000 words a year, not bad. But probably well below the ridiculous numbers that James Patterson, Stephen King and Nora Roberts write – wild guess probably more than a million words a year.

Last comments: Write because you love to write. Write to tell stories. Write to entertain. And, most especially, write to keep sane.

More Later . . . . . . .