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 . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Busy, Busy, Busy - and a Book Signing

Lots to catch up on. First of all, in celebration of Book 5 in the Sharon O’Mara series, Diamonds For Death, I have a book signing and reading at Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera, California, Sunday February 15, at 4:00. Should be a lot of fun talking books and the writing process. Books are available for purchase at Book Passage as well as a few copies of the first four O’Mara thrillers. I hope for a big turnout, but even if a just a few friends and readers show, we will have a great time. And remember to post those reviews on the respective ebook sites and on Goodreads.

Sales of Diamonds For Death have been good, but I need you to tell your friends about Sharon and how absolutely cool she is. When I created her (so many years ago) I had no idea where she and her adventures would go (or take me). It has been a fun ride to Mexico, Paris, London, Cuba, Amsterdam, Argentina, and of course Venice as well as her home town, Walnut Creek, California. She is a dream character and continues to surprise me. Each book allows me the opportunity to explore all the aspects of her character, her friends, and how these interactions change when outside forces take her down paths not traveled.

I told you about my process for broadening the reach to readers into bookstores (online as well) that are outside of the Amazon cosmos of Kindle and CreateSpace. Well it worked! All the paperback books (Sharon O’Mara’s, Elk River) were posted to IngramSpark (POD and distributor) and are now available through the search engine of Barnes and Noble as well as available to all bookstores. This is so cool. And through Smashwords (ebook download site) these books are also available as ebooks at B&N, iBooks, Kobo and other ebook distributors. As I said, very, very, cool. It is critical to every independent publisher that they get their books to as many outlets as possible. There are many very successful authors that sell directly (and exclusively) through Amazon, I agree—to a point. But, if Budweiser only sold through Safeway how would that work? They need to be everywhere: bars, restaurants, 7-11’s, everywhere. Same with authors. And until the new publishing paradigm is finally defined and accepted (if ever), I want all my bases covered.

We, as independent publishers and authors, have a responsibility to our readers, customers, and profession to produce the best products to the highest standard (traditional and modern) we can. This falls on story, genre, structure, cover design, ebook design, editing, postproduction and of course marketing. Even knocking out a book a month or three or four a year requires this same attention to detail. We writers spend a lot of time writing and developing the damn thing; at least the final product should not be embarrassing.

There are a lot of exciting things coming this year from the Randall studio and Windsor Hill Publishing, two and possibly three new books. Two new characters, with their own series, to throw into the literary milieu. Remember these names: Tony Alfano, Max Kline, and the divine Regi Norcross, you will love them.

Well back to the books, I have four underway right now. A 1933 detective thriller, a new Sharon O’Mara (#6), a follow up to the award winning Elk River, and the sequel to this summer’s coming blockbuster This Face Of Evil. Never a dull day.

More Later . . . . . . . .