Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ten Things I Learned This Year and Where Did the Year Go

We (I and my live in/with publisher) have learned a lot over the last year about writing and publishing. I would guess that a small book could be written about the experience (just one more book to add to the long list of future books I’ll write). I wrote and finished two books this year, we published three books, and I am well into the fourth 4 Death book. The road, while not profitable yet, has been informative and at times, a very cool ride. A book signing at a fashion show, who’d a thunk?

As one of my teachers said, “If you'd pay attention Mister, you might learn something.”
  1. Be well organized before you start. This includes computer files, notes, articles, and all pertinent data collected. Make a plan, use it for all your books, make it a part of your routine and style.
  2. Set a schedule and try to keep to it. Those of you involved in the NaNoWrMo this past month understand, no schedule means that you didn’t write that 60K novel in November. Schedules will be broken – use the guilt to push you harder.
  3. Keep your files in multiple locations, duplicate and date every file. The cloud is the thing these days but I’m more mobile and bounce between at least three computers and access to the Internet is problematic. Memory sticks are great. Dedicate one stick to each book, save often, make copies.
  4. Publishing is hard work, but you do meet the nicest people. Think of a lifeboat set adrift with a bunch of strangers, all hoping to survive. This is the nature of publishing today. Go to bookselling shows and publisher’s trade shows. You have to do it, enjoy and bring lots of handouts, you will feel better.
  5.  Learn how to use Adobe InDesign. We self-publish and I do all the book formatting and construction (blame me for the covers, but I like’em!). It’s a reasonably easy program, just work at it; it isn’t like AutoCADD drafting software – that will make your brain melt.
  6. Read and reread Mark Coker’s instructions on posting at Smashwords (Amazon’s too). This small company with 12 employees (saw that on a Coker Tweet), is doing more than any, and in fact all, of the publishing houses in the world in changing how we access books and data. Not everything he prints is books, there are manuals, how-to’s, poems, short stories, you get the picture.
  7. Get out, do the research, and meet people. I’ve asked Canadians to edit my French, an Army ranger to review my Iraq battle scenes, a fellow who runs one of the largest sailing schools in the Bay Area about sailing, and many other experts, professionals and layabouts, to get context and data. Properly asked they all love to help - a meal or a book is helpful too!
  8. Join LinkedIn and add your name to many of the discussion groups. It is amazing how open people are with information and points about the writing and publishing craft. Sure there’s a lot of hype and book flogging, so what. Like you, they want to succeed, help them and they will help you.
  9. Read a book a week and watch TV. I know, I know, educated people don’t watch the boob-tube. It’s all so pedestrian and low-brow, and it will rot your brain and widen your ass (proven, the study is posted on Smashwords). But, if you are a thriller writer (moi?), you really would kill to have your character on a TV show, in real color, maybe 3D, with bad commercials and all. Besides you will learn, if you pay attention, to edit and reduce to a strong minimum your story and dialog. Get over it!
  10. Try to find a day job you like that pays the bills. There are maybe three writers in the whole world who make enough to live on, true story. All the rest of us are shills for the publishing and printing industry. We take the above income and pass it directly on to them, hoping to turn a $1000 investment into $250 in earnings. No one ever said this was a sane occupation, but it is fun and enjoyable.
What a year and tomorrow is December 1. We bought a Christmas tree last night, listened to carols on the radio (Michael BubblĂ©), and noted that there seems to be more decorated houses already this year. Maybe this is a sign that this year Americans say to the Man, screw you, I’m going to have a great holiday whether you want me to or not.

More later . . . .

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Well Flogged Book

When you write three blogs a week there will come a time when you think you have run out of words or ideas. You have already flogged the schedule, the cover, the pre-publishing announcements, the pending announcements, the “it-will-soon-be-here” announcements, the “one-more-thing-to-add” announcements, and the missed my deadline announcement . 

But then there is the: It’s almost, almost here announcement! Well this is THAT announcement.

Next Friday, December 2, barring a meteor or some other calamity, Toulouse 4 Death will be posted as an ebook on Amazon and Smashwords.

For those patient readers who have followed this nine month process here is the story:

Once again Sharon O’Mara has a job to do: Return an incredible Toulouse-Lautrec painting to its rightful owners after it was stolen by the Nazis in 1938. Sharon quickly discovers there is more to her client’s secret treasure than just a few paintings. After seventy years an American GI and a Nazi SS soldier are again pitted against each other. Gold bullion and Impressionist paintings are nothing compared to the rumors of billions in hidden World War II treasure. Can Sharon solve the mystery or will she die before she can foil the evil goal of world domination by the ‘New Reich.’

That’s it. Stolen art, tons of gold, tunnels under Germany, wine making, old and young Nazis, Argentina, San Francisco, a billionaire and Paris, what more could you want?

This is the cover:

I will send an epub version of the book to the first three of my readers who respond to me at Please post your name, city you live in, and of course your email. I will send you the epub file (or other version if requested) the second week of December. Everyone who responds will be acknowledged, be the first!

I am starting a new book (actually already a couple of thousand words into it); I will post its schedule next month. I will also see if I can beat the last book’s nine months production schedule.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving,

Greg, Bonnie, Sharon and the rest of the Writing 4 Death gang

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Any Club That Wants Me As A Member I Won’t Join

(with apologies to Groucho Marx)
One continuing requirement of a writer and publisher is that they must join various associations, clubs, Internet groups, and other like-minded collectives. You can’t live in a cave, cross-legged like a guru, and expect the market to find you. Your potential readers have enough on their minds and some crackpot hawking his next best novel is just that, a crackpot. But we all like to commiserate and an association is a good place to start.

Last Saturday we attended out first Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) HERE, a better group of literary hopefuls you will never find. It's a mix of writers, publishers (usually their own work), web designers, artists and other hangers on. And we are all hangers on, each trying our best to flog our books to the great marketplace and these group therapy meetings help all of us to push forward one more week.

You have to get out of the house once and a while to meet other kindred souls and the last few weeks have allowed us to meet some great people in the industry. Two weeks ago it was the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) HERE and BAIPA last week. While similar they were very different in their membership and direction. One is strongly oriented toward the marketplace and bookstores and the other towards helping each other learn more about the industry and moving forward, primarily as a writer selling their work.

I recommend both to writers and fledgling publishers, especially in Northern California. But every region has its own groups, look for them. The writing biz is changing, just read the Wall Street Journal. Every day there is something new or frightening about the publishing industry. In today’s WSJ, has a great article on the Nook and Kindle Fire – game changers. HERE Faced with these changes and opportunities every writer needs to get as much information about the game. What’s new? What angle can I use to move my stories? What is the next great platform to prepare for?

It’s all about platform – your platform, your writer’s platform. Connelly’s Linclon Lawer, Grafton’s A-Z thrillers, Michener’s sweeping historical novels – all platforms. One book wonders are rare and pointless. You have something to say and it usually takes more than one book to say it. Think about the scope of your work then how can you expand it to include more readers, what’s your message? Some deep soul searching need to help or just to tell a damn good yarn! It’s all a part of your platform, think about it and build on it.

More later . . . .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Books

I am in the beginning stages of two love affairs. I have completed two books this year (actually three with the early spring publication of Containers 4 Death). Toulouse 4 Death and Elk River are, as they say in the movie business “in the can.” So what to dive into next? What scribbling should I begin? Maybe a steampunk piece, maybe a romance (I don’t think so, at least not yet). But then again, sure, why not, let’s do the sequels.

The Sharon O’Mara Chronicles have always been about developing the main character around interesting stories. They need to be situations and story lines that I, as the creator, will enjoy over the six months of writing. If I get bored, Sharon will get bored, and lord knows you don’t want a hot chick, who carries a gun, bored. She continually demands satisfaction so in this next book, I am going to give it to her. Stay close over the next few months; it’s going to be fun and maybe sexy. The Bay Area will shine in this one.

But the sequel to Elk River is very different. The first book takes place in 1956 in the cherry country of northern Michigan. World War II still held its survivors in its cold embrace, America was going through profound changes, and a young man is growing up. I recommend the book to you.

In the sequel it will be ten years later. 1966 was a dramatic and life changing year for many young people, it set much of the agenda for the rest of the century and is still with us today. Vietnam, national politics, the early protests, SDS in Michigan, and still the need to bring in the cherry crop trump them all. Farming does not wait for politics. What is Howie Smith doing? What effects have success had on the family? And what happens to a nineteen year old boy in the jungles of Vietnam?

The next year will be a tale of two books. No names yet, no working titles. Just a bunch of eager characters who wish to strut the stage and signify something. I just hope they can remember their lines.

More later . . . .

By the way, tomorrow in addition to being Veterans Day, is also Nigel Tufnel Day. Nigel, lead guitarist for the group Spinal Tap, was the first to have his amplifier’s volume knob go to 11 (tomorrow's date is 11-11-11). No one had done that before. Brilliant!  ENJOY

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two Reviews– More Coming and Phooey on Michael Moore

This has been a strange week. Last Thursday we set up at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA - HERE)  convention at The Oakland Convention Center. We were, to say the least, intimidated. Our little publishing company, Windsor Hill Publishing, set up next to some of the big boys (Penguin, Xerox and its Espresso printer, and numerous smaller publishing houses and groups). We were pumped. It looked good and promising, we were ready to learn and take orders.

Unfortunately it fissiled. All the hype and fear foisted on downtown Oakland by the demonstrators turned people away, almost no one showed up to walk the aisles and look at the efforts of thousands of authors and publishers. To say these protestors have the interests of the 99% is just baloney. Phooey on them and their ilk. Michael Moore spoke to both the rabble and then eventually to us. He seems to think that Amazon is the enemy, when called out on this by some in our audience, he backed and filled since his own work is on Amazon.

For most of us Amazon (and other ebook outlets such as Barnes and Noble) is our only access to millions of potential customers. Only Amazon has opened their arms to our efforts. So again I say to Michael Moore, phooey and shame on you!

But we did meet some wonderful people and commiserated our plight in this difficult world of marketing our hard work. We traded books and stories. We even began to plot how we can move the ball as a small group of independent East Bay writers. Maybe a joint book signing, maybe take it on the road, rent a hall, invite friends, have a party. More later as we try to pull this together. BTW our Group 15 table mates included Kaye Hall and her dog Julot (buy her wonderful children’s book Stop and Stay Put– go HERE), Herman Rarebell was there, drummer with the Scorpions – yes that Scorpions, wonderful sense of humor, see his biography HERE -  and a lovely lady, Anita Venezia. Her name is just right for her debut novel Crosswinds at Campo Carcasso, Italian through and through, go HERE for the review. 

I was also fortunate to have posted in the current issue of Walnut Creek Magazine (November/December 2011) an excellent review of Elk River by Peggy Spear. Thanks Peggy for the kind words, and yes there is more to life than baseball. This review was on the heels of another excellent review of Elk River by Readers Favorite – see HERE. The novel is getting some good press and the story is a strong one. It is edgy young adult to adult and deals with some strong issues such as death, responsibility, growing up, and a relationship that is forbidden. I recommend the book to all. Get it HERE as an ebook , the paper version can be ordered through our publishing house at Or leave a comment and email below and we will find you.

I also was interviewed on WPBM in Traverse City on October 18th, it went very well. For those in Traverse City, Michigan the book is available at Horizon Books. They keep promising me that the interview will be posted on their website Writers Minute; I will let you know when.

Toulouse 4 Death is in the final edit phase, Dennis DeRose is doing a final page by page review and it will be back to me very soon, he promises. And Dennis keeps his promises. I am pushing to get the ebook on line by the end of the month, paper soon after. It is a great story and just adds to the Sharon O’Mara case files. This is our third together. She is becoming my second favorite red head.

Here is the front and back cover, let me know what you think.

Toulouse 4 Death

We are also working on the book trailers; it may be ready for next week’s blog.

More later . . . .