Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Clubbing

Today was one of those delightful days where you get to discuss your books, the reasons for your characters, why you write the way you do, and above all what excites you about writing. I sat down for a discussion and tasty lunch with seven of my fans at their monthly book club meeting. It’s also fun when they are all women and you are out numbered eight to one (my wife and muse also attended). This was the second time I’ve met with this group, the first was soon after the release of 12th Man For Death (Book Four).

Every author must cultivate the local book clubs to both develop a solid following of loyal and local readers as well as practice the fine art of self-promotion. In today’s marketplace it is all about self-promotion and never passing up the chance to talk about your books and the business of publishing.

I am always surprised by the questions. By the second visit we are past the questions about how long does it take to write a book (I really haven’t a clue) and where do you get your fanciful ideas (ask Johnnie W. Red). The questions now are about the characters and story. Why are they doing this or that at certain parts of the story? Why did you choose Rotterdam? Is that bar in Lafayette the one you were thinking of as Geno’s? It is enjoyable to listen to readers talk about your characters in the second person: Is she going to do this in the next book? She really should fall for Clive Barrington (now that was a new one – got me thinking). Did you know that Bobby Gillis is exactly like a friend of mine?

I am grateful when they suggest new story ideas for my characters; they get me thinking about what my audience wants. I am also surprised when they want to discuss the business of publishing – especially self-publishing. What is POD? How are ebooks created? Are printed books going away? I discuss covers and ask what they like to see. What kinds of books interest them? To be honest, the scheduled two-hour talk and lunch quickly went to three hours.

What was really fun was that these seven women had read most of the books in the Sharon O’Mara series (5 total). They even remembered parts of the books (and secondary characters) I’d forgotten. One even read parts of my book she liked to the group. That was a wonderful first.

Book clubs are so, so clubby. We sit in civilized living rooms, with iced tea or coffee, with no time limits or limitations on the subject matter. The relaxed atmosphere (instead of tables and audiences with monitors and clocks on the wall), allows for a more thorough two-way understanding between the author and the reader. We both come away with a better understanding of the writer’s craft and the expectations hidden in a good book.

If I could I’d meet with two or three book clubs a month, they are that much fun. If you or you know someone who would like to book me for a session and/or lunch send me an email at or

More later . . . . . . . .

Monday, February 23, 2015

200 Blogs and Still Writing

This marks the 200th blog I’ve posted about writing, editing, marketing, ebooks, paper books and the general state of the publishing industry. The first post was on January 26, 2011, almost exactly four years ago, and I’ve averaged 50 posts a year. Not bad considering each post is about five hundred and fifty words. All in all, at 110,000 words, this is a novel in and of itself. What is even more impressive is that I’m still writing the damn thing. It is as much a release of frustrations as a commentary on the state of the publishing industry.

I wish that every blog was pithy and smart, yet some were just silly and even dumb. Others have helped new writers into the world of self-publishing, showed how the barriers could be breached, and helped many to find the right path. When I started this blog the independent self-publisher/author/writer was an anomaly and shunned by the greater publishing world. Amazon was trying hard to fight the fight for the indie writer and Mark Coker, with his Smashwords’ “meatgrinder,” was new. Now they are the backbone of a innovative world of publishing and writing opportunities, and in fact Amazon through its various imprints and publishing houses, in now one of the biggest publishers on the street (and not just ebooks). And self-publishing has become the go to for many writers who have lost their gigs with the New York traditionals.

One of my earliest posts was about the scheduling of the writing of my third book in the O’Mara series, Toulouse For Death. It was an attempt on my part to set dates for the book’s development, I beat that first schedule. Since that first post I’ve written five additional books with new characters, plots, and even historical settings. I’m proud of the work, but I don’t schedule anymore.

I’m easily squirreled. Right now I am writing and developing five new books, each remarkably different than the rest. Which one is completed first remains to be seen, but in time they will all be written.

I am a storyteller, not a stylist. The fundamental truth about good and even great writing is story. While rich and well developed characters are critical to a story, if they don’t have something to do or react to they become flat and unresponsive. This debate will never end. Which is more important, story or characters? Right now I believe in story.

Where do I go from here? Easy to say. My goal this year is to publish three new works, and then follow up in 2016 with two more. Will I go traditional, not sure? Never saw a deal that was worth the loss of control and creativity, but then again the next book might be the one.

More later  . . . . . .

Friday, February 13, 2015






Another Great Review!

What can I say? It is these kinds of reviews that make you know you are onto something. All the hours, rewrites, and editing are worthwhile when you get a review like this:

Diamonds For Death

"The gun fired with a concussive snap. The bullet clipped the right shoulder of the woman before shattering the driver's side window; she screamed and let her foot off the brake."

Most baseball fans in North America consider the sport to be an exciting pastime but little more than that. Even professional ball players tend to see it, at most, as a challenging and rewarding career. Yet for many young players in third world countries the game is a dangling golden ticket, a chance to escape poverty and carve out for themselves a new future if they can only be lucky enough and skilled enough to grab it. Toro Rodriguez, a Cuban slugger who is also an expert fielder, is one of the few fortunate ones to make it big in the major leagues, but the price he pays for his success and freedom is a missing family sequestered somewhere in his native country by a government that wants him back.

In this fast-paced fifth installment in his Sharon O'Mara mystery-thriller series, Randall combines the world of international baseball with political repression, diamond smuggling, and murder. O'Mara, a tough veteran of the Iraqi War and successful problem solver, is asked to go on a search-and-rescue mission to Cuba to retrieve Rodriquez's family. Meanwhile, her pal Kevin Bryan finds himself embroiled in helping stop a diamonds for guns operation that stretches from the Caribbean to Europe and then down into Africa. Both Sharon and Kevin will need all of their skills and wits to survive in separate assignments that are actually very much intertwined.

Randall exhibits all of the tools of a top-notch thriller writer. However, unlike many authors in the field he opts for more realistic action than the overblown variety. Expertly employing the techniques of backstory, character development, believable dialogue, and rising suspense, he has crafted a story that can stand toe-to-toe with some of the best examples in the genre out there.

Reviewed by John E. Roper – The US Review of Books

Didn’t I tell you? Makes one blush.

If there is one thing I’ve learned is that you can never stop learning, and to have a thick skin when it comes to publisher’s rejections helps. Let me say up front I am a committed practitioner of the art of self-publishing. But every once in a while it’s fun to wonder what might happen if I were to suddenly be accepted in the real world of traditional publishing (ah the horrors). I sent on my latest manuscript, that is literally only weeks away from publishing, to one of the crime publishing houses (dozens have popped up during the last five years) to see what might happen. Of course it was rejected. Not necessarily because of the story but because of some issues (in their minds) over the writing style. If you want to start an argument among writers criticize their styles. Then stand back.

But what the rejection did do was to give me a review (sort of) of the opening of the book, from this I crashed through another edit and the book is much better for it. So thanks Lee.

More later . . . . . . . . . .