Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Ten Short Story/Novelette Challenge and Paradox Lake


So I'm taking a little advice from the great Dean Wesley Smith and challenging myself to write ten short stories and/or novelettes in ten weeks. Thus far I've managed to write two or three (already I'm losing count).  But I also write for an Influencer out in L.A., so things have been pretty busy around here. Today, I didn't get much word count in on the newest novelette, The Devil Won't Have You, but I'll be back at it tomorrow. 

The docs want me to have a cat scan of my lungs tomorrow in the wake of my Covid infection even though I'm asymptomatic, running three miles per day, spending an hour lifting weight, hitting the heavy bag, etc. But you know how doctors can be. If you don't have a problem, they are damn well gonna try and find one. 

Speaking of Covid, I had my second shot today, so I'm that much closer to international travel. Yesterday I was a bit panicked when the state department announced a travel ban to another 135 countries. Anyone get the feeling they are building a sort of Berlin Wall around us while letting tens of thousands of undocumented people through the southern border? Something smells fishy to me. 

In any case, I began to feel better about the travel situation when President Macron of France did the right thing by announcing the country would open up to vaccinated American tourists in May. I'm hoping Italy follows suit. Today some of my good friends over there confirmed that Italy would be open for the fall season. That happens, I will head to Turkey for a few weeks in September and perhaps head directly to Italy, maybe for a few months. The exact length of my stay remains to be seen, but with all the rules and restrictions still currently in place, one thing is for sure, once I get out, I'm gonna stay out for a while. 

Next month, my newest and greatest full-length thriller, Paradox Lake, will be released from Oceanview Publishing in hardcover, eBook, and brilliant audio. I hope you pick it up. If you loved The Remains and The Ashes, you'll absolutely love this one too. 



Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Fiction Gets Tokenized? The World's First Hardboiled Short Story Offered as an NFT


I've been following the crypto space for a while now. Or more precisely, since 2017. I've been dollar cost averaging Bitcoin and other currencies since that time. On occasion I would attempt to make a trade but I would almost always lose money doing it (just ask my accountant if you don't believe me). Like writing, some people just have the gift for trading and others should stick to their day jobs. 

More recently, I'd heard about NFTs or what's also known as Non-Fungible Tokens. I have no idea where this name comes from and what it means to "funge" something, but it sounds vaguely dirty to me. But anyway, I digress. According to, the new crypto-like investments have taken the world by storm, turning digital works of art and other collectibles like photos of NBA players dunking a basketball, into tradable items available only on the digital blockchain. 

And get this, some of these pieces of digital art are going for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some have sold in the millions. Why? Like Bitcoin's attractive nature, there's only so much of the digital asset to go around. In the case of NFTs, what you get is a one-of-a-kind piece of art. Think of it as purchasing brand new Picasso online as a digital property. That is, he were still alive. 

But NFTs, it turns out, aren't just limited to digital art and photos. Just a couple of weeks ago, the rock band Kings of Leon, offered up their latest album as an NFT. Now that's what got me to thinking, if you can sell digital art as an NFT, and if you can sell a basketball player crushing a dunk as an NFT, and you can sell an album of rock music as an NFT, why then can't I sell a piece of one-of-a-kind short, hardboiled fiction as an NFT? 

So that's exactly what I've done. I've set up an account with the NFT trading portal OpenSea, and offered my flash-fiction short, Suicide by Cop, as an NFT. This is a move that is entirely counter-intuitive to the fiction publishing business in which a writer sets out to sell as many copies (or units), of his or her book to the reading public as he or she can, and therefore rake in a lot of money. Or, that's the theory behind publishing anyway. But my NFT is being offered to the highest bidder who will not only receive the story in digital, pixelated form, they will also receive a hard-copy manuscript with my signature which can then be framed for posterity. 

Do I think my short story is going to sell for millions of dollars or the equivalent in Etherium (Bitcoin's main competitor on the blockchain)? God only knows, but it's a start. Like I said, as far as I know, I'm the only author doing this right now, so like Indian Jones, I'm just making this up as I go. But in the back and fore of my mind, I can't help but see other writers joining the cause. Creating short or even long fiction that's meant to be bought and sold to just one individual who wishes to own a one-of-a-kind piece of literature. 

Kind of tickles the imagination, doesn't it? 


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Bestseller Status: It takes a Hell of a Lot of Work ...

This weekend I'll be a speaker at The Next Bestseller Workshop in New York City, or should I say, Virtual New York City, where I'll be talking about some of my bestselling books, and how they came to be. I'll also be talking about books that didn't reach bestseller status but that nonetheless sell steadily day in and day out. I'll even mention the dogs that hardly sell at all (in other words, not even my mother will buy them). Full transparency here.

At one point, I will be asked, what are two things that can potentially keep at least some of my books, or future books, in bestseller status. I've given this some thought, so here goes: 

1). Perseverance, Proliferation, Publication

 As a writer, you must always be playing the long game. This is not a get rich quick scheme, anymore than it's an overnight success story. Sure the success comes overnight, but after many nights spent without success. You also need to write a lot, depending on your genre. As a hard-boiled mystery writer for the most part, I write a lot of words everyday and I put out a lot of books and stories with a lot of different publishers, big and small. I also publish independently. This is on top of my journalistic and freelance writing endeavors. 

Each book is another chance at topping the bestseller lists and also making it to the movies or TV. The publishers you use (or don't use) can have a lot to do with bestseller status. The Amazon Imprints virtually guarantee big sales, but that's not always the case. Many of their authors don't see a lot of sales right off the bat and they are usually shown the door. Their books are also not sold at indie bookstores nor the chains. You also won't hit the New York Times bestseller list with an Amazon Imprint book. At one point I had 9 books with the Amazon Imprint, Thomas & Mercer, the largest seller of which was The Remains.  

But I've also had publishers who have literally screwed my books up. Back in 1999 I signed with a major for $250K for my novel, The Innocent, but the editor changed the title to As Catch Can, which was a big mistake. The hardcover art was botched too. In the end, the book sold very little. After I got my rights back, I changed the title back to The Innocent. It was republished by a smaller publisher who did a terrific job with new cover art, and the book sold 100K units in a single month. It stayed on the Amazon Overall Bestseller list in Kindle Books for weeks, second only to The Lincoln Lawyer which was a major movie at the time. 

I've had other publishers, one in particular whom I won't name, but who for some reason gets great press in PW and elsewhere. Said publisher not only botched the editing process to several of my titles, but provided almost no marketing. The owner then gets himself his own book deal, so now his main focus seems to be selling his own books. This might not bother other authors, but it doesn't sit right with me. A publisher's main priority should be its authors. And did I mention they never send out statements or royalty checks when they are legally obligated? A publisher like this can damage your career, at least for a while, so beware.

2). Luck

While you might be over the moon when you finally get your first book deal, you must keep in mind that success depends not only on the amount of marketing and advertising you do, it also depends an awful lot on luck. There has always been a certain amount of luck involved in the books that have done the best for me. In other words, the books that did the best were in the right place at the right time. It's an inexplicable thing, when you think about it. The books that didn't sell as well, and that should have sold well, based on the sales of similar books, can't be explained either, other than they just didn't enjoy the same luck the bestseller did. 

The point is to hang in there, keep writing like your life depends upon it, and choose your publishers carefully. It takes a hell of a lot of work, but it's better than having a real job. 




Saturday, January 23, 2021

I Thought Covid Would Kill Me

 No exaggeration. I thought Covid-19 would kill me. It all started out so innocently, as so many little seasonal colds and flus do. I went skiing on a Wednesday, but by Thursday evening, I was enjoying a beer in one of my locals after a day of writing, and I started feeling not quite myself. Rather, I could feel a fever coming on, and get this, my lungs ached right down to the ribs. I knew something was wrong, but I pretty much shrugged it off and said to my friend, "Think I'll grab some NyQuil at the supermarket before I head home." Every year I get a little something, and usually all it takes to kill it is a couple good night's rest with the help of some night time cough medicine. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as my grandmother liked to say. 

But I suffered through that first night while the fever not only intensified, my entire body went into some kind of toxic shock that took the form of aching joints, muscle, and bones. It was a chore just heading the few feet to the bathroom, and all the while I was there, I was shivering with fever. The next morning, I called my doc and she told me to get tested, pronto. Since that would take a few days, she suggested I isolate myself anyway, and take plenty of fluids. I did as she told me. This wasn't an easy thing for me. Even though I work at a desk in my bedroom, I run and lift heavy weights day in and day out, and simply staying still in my bedroom all day was going to prove more difficult than it seemed, even being sick. Still, I did as I was told. 

The next day, I was tested and the day after that, the results came back in the form of a text message all in big red letters. Positive for Covid-19. Naturally, I tried to figure out where I could have contracted it. So did New York State who promptly called me, gave me my beginning and end dates for quarantine, and then proceeded to trace my movements. Like I said, I'd been skiing, I'd been to a couple locals that had been practicing safety precautions, and of course, the local mega-mart. Other than that, I'd been to the dentist, and a physical therapy session for my lower back. In the end, we never really could figure out where I got the dreaded bat disease. All I knew is I had it and had it bad. 

Now, I know of handful of men and women about my age who have had Covid. None of them were necessarily in good shape, and one of them in particular had been using a cane for severe lower back problems and was even in the hospital for bad kidney stones. Yet, his Covid case was a mild one. His symptoms were like a cold. That's it. Yet, what I contracted, kept getting worse and worse, almost like I had underlying medical conditions. Case and point: after around day 4, I started developing a severe bronchial cough. It felt like I was tearing my ribs out with every gut wrenching cough. 

Around day 5 or 6, I started coughing up blood. As I watched my blood circling the toilet drain, I pictured myself being dragged to the ER and immediately transferred to ICU. A nurse would turn to a co-worker and tell her to "Get a priest." That's the stuff that was swimming through my mind while I felt like I was dying. I called my doctor and she took charge, putting me on a steroid for the lungs plus a heavy duty cough medicine with codeine. It seemed to help. 

Other little things occurred. I didn't lose my sense of taste or smell, so much as food tasted like salt, and liquids like orange juice tasted flat and old. And boy did I sleep. Even though I did my best to keep up with my work schedule, I slept pretty much from 8PM to 8AM, and then again, 1-3PM. And even then, I had to tear myself from my mattress. But like the doc said, the only real cure for the disease is constant rest, and the inner hope that the virus doesn't start winning the war being waged inside your body. 

Now it's been well over two full weeks, and I am happy to report I'm definitely on the road to recovery. I'm even back to light workouts and short jogs. It's important to build up the strength in my lungs again. But it's sad knowing there are people out there who are getting this awful disease who will not make it. It will be too strong for them. It will attack their organs and make their lungs into so much toast, and it will kill them. As for me, I might have dodged a bullet with this one, but I've also learned a lesson. Life isn't cheap, but it can be fleeting. Despite Covid restrictions I made immediate plans for an adventure to the Middle East in late May, and I will make plans to be in Italy for most of the Fall. After that, I will finally make the move to a place that suits me and my work perfectly. Or who knows, maybe I will just keep traveling the world since I can work from where I want, when I want. 

I'm immune to this thing now, so they say. For how long, I don't know. But I will be vaccinated as soon as possible. I don't want a rematch with it. Facing a grim reaper in the form of a manufactured foreign born virus once in a lifetime was enough for me. 

I hope you stay safe, and avoid Covid-19 like the  plague. 


For a one week more you can grab THE GIRL WHO WASN'T THERE in eBook for just $1.99 as a part of a Kindle Monthly Deal. Grab yours!!!!







Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas America (Are We Dead Yet?)

A few years back, Xmas in Rome.


Yes, I'm writing on Christmas morning, but that's not my choice, it's sort of my duty. A long time ago when I was studying and writing at The Breadloaf Writer's Conference, the novelist Tim O'Brien kindly took me under his wing, personally critiqued a short story of mine which was then called Portrait, and which later became the novel, When Shadows Come (a novel that was orphaned prior to its release from Thomas & Mercer when the editor jumped ship--something that happens a lot over there. But as usual, I digress). 

In the middle of going over the story, sometimes line by line, he with red pencil in hand and trademark Boston Red Sox baseball cap on his head, lit cigarette between his lips, suddenly asked, "Hey you don't happen to have any coke on you?" 

I was sorely disappointed I didn't. 

In any case, when we were through he said...and I'll never forget it..."One day, you're going to be more famous than you are now. You will have fans, and they will expect a lot out of you. They will, in some cases, become more needy than your wives (yes, he used the plural), and you will need to put out for them. That means you will be writing on your birthday, when you are sick with the flu, when you are happy, and when you are depressed. You will be writing ON CHRISTMAS DAY, whether you like it or not." 

So there you have it, readers. It's Christmas and I will spend my day or most of it anyway, working on novel edits. But let me say, Merry Christmas to you all. Some might find that offensive but I'm not woke, and shall forever remain asleep, metaphorically speaking, I guess. 2020 is about to come to an end and let's hope the door slaps it on the ass on the way out. 

I still recall standing inside a bar in Lake Placid last New Years Eve as a blizzard was blowing outside. I had a pool cue in hand, and was watching the wall mounted TV while my GF was beating me at pool. The report about a virus outbreak in China sent a chill down my spine. At that point it was still a small story in the grand scheme of things, but I recall saying half under my breath to said GF, "This is going to be bad. This is going to be very, very bad." And bad it became. 

I'm not fond of the Grateful Dead, and in fact, I hate their music (I prefer old punk rock), but I'm reminded of their song that goes What a Long Strange Trip it's Been. It's raining outside my window. I had planned on skiing today (sorry Tim), but the grass outside my writing studio looks like a putting green. There's hardly any planes in the air and many fewer cars on the road. Carbon emissions are way down. Why isn't it snowing AOC? But again, I digress. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it doesn't feel like Christmas. In fact, the whole year doesn't feel like we've progressed, but if anything, regressed into this population of fenced in individuals who are slowly going insane with boredom, loneliness, financial ruin, and despair (BTW, my profound thanks to the US government for pulling through with stimulus for normal everyday folks who will visit the food lines today instead of enjoying a nice Xmas dinner. The US government is broken and you only have yourself to blame...You know precisely who you are. Enjoy your ice cream, Nancy. And Mitch, I hope you're sipping only the best Kentucky bourbon today with a big fat cigar stuffed in your mouth. You both should be drawn and quartered in public...once more, I digress). 

But it almost feels like we've actually succumbed to the disease and simply don't know it yet. Like a person who's suddenly dropped dead and sort of hangs around for a while as a ghost. Or maybe we're all in purgatory. Who knows? But then, election fraud was real, not that anybody cares. The rent is still due, and the price of chicken has doubled if not tripled in just just a few months. These things are reality. 

So than, I can bitch and moan all I want, but on the other hand, I am thankful for my health, my relative youth, my publishers (Yet another notable outfit approached me the other day and said they would love a Zandri novel in their catalogue, God bless them...I remember when I couldn't find a publisher to save my life. Now they come to me in some cases), my family, my kids, my mom, my life (which is blessed in every sense of the word), my God, my travels, my country (as busted up as it is), and what lies in store for the future. It's got to be better than this. My hopes are that very, very soon, all us dead folk will be resurrected. 

Today, you can get my brand new release, CHASE BAKER AND THE ARK OF GOD for special intro price. You can also get my brand new big 4.8 star thriller, THE GIRL WHO WASN'T THERE there also for a special holiday price. Last but never least, THE EMBALMER, the pilot novel in the Steve Jobs PI series is just 0.99 since it's a Bargain Booksy promo for 24 hours. 

It's Christmas morning so no doubt you'll want to fill up that new Kindle eReader you just unwrapped. 

A very Merry Xmas to you all, and a Happy and prosperous New Year. 





Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Remember Not to Write for Free (Pay the Writer!)

Interestingly enough, I have been flat out the past three months. I've been working for an "influencer" firm out in LA that has been feeding me steady work in the form of blogs. It feels good to be blogging professionally again, rather than adding content to a meat grinder like Medium or any number of sites where they don't really pay the writer. That's the kind of thing that truly pisses me off. If only writers wouldn't be so willing to work for free, we wouldn't have this problem. In the meantime I'm finishing up two novels, plus blogging at the Vox (I pay myself in beer). 

While we're on the same topic, the twice annual book royalty statement time is coming up. I know it's been a rough year for publishers, but I'm working with at least three publishers right now, one of them a major (they pay once per month so they're good), but I'll be interested to see the numbers. For my indie stuff, I've had one of the best years in ages. Probably because people are stuck at home and looking for some good, if not cheap entertainment. But we'll see what's been working and what hasn't been working when the statements come through. I'm pretty sure, I earned out my advance for The Girl Who Wasn't There, but then that wasn't a huge advance. So we'll see. 

In the meantime, I'm waiting for a little snow up here in Upstate New York. Come Friday, I'm going skiing come hell or high water. If I can't fish, I feel the need to ski. 

Hope everyone is staying safe and getting ready for the holidays. Don't forget, you can grab a first signed editions of The Girl Who Wasn't There at The Mysterious Bookshop. They'll be happy to drop it in the mail for you. Also, it's a great time to pre-order my biggest psychological thriller since The Remains, Paradox Lake. Look for it in May. Also look for the new Chase Baker, Chase Baker and the Lost Ark of God, in a week or so. Late next month, the brand new edition of Moonlight Falls will be issues by Down & Out Books. Can't wait for that one, plus the reissue of all the Thriller and Shamus Award winning Dick Moonlight PI Thrillers. 

Tomorrow will mark the 9th year since my dad's sudden passing. Funny how time flies. He wouldn't recognize the world we live in now. I'm not sure he'd want to be living in it either. Who knows. 

Pay the writer! Miss you too Harlan!!!!



Friday, December 11, 2020

Advice for New Writers

Hunter was a new writer once

I've been asked by New York Times bestselling mega author Cheryl Bradshaw to contribute to her new nonfiction book on writing. She asked me what advice I have for new and/or young newbie writers just starting out. That said, I thought I would get my thoughts in order by first writing it down here. So here, goes. 

New Writers Should Read a Lot

In their genre, that is. If you're going to write action/thrillers, read and watch a whole lot of action/thrillers. Forget the crap they make you read in the English classes in high school. Chances are they choose books that are "woke" and inclusive and, even if they're good, it's not the stuff you should be reading. Unless you want to, that is. Read what you love, and one day you will love what you write. 

New Writers Should Write a Lot

That means ass in the chair time. What did some genius surmise about mastering one's art? You need 10,000 hours of practice until you can perfect your craft. That's of course, a bunch of BS, but it sounds good. But the fact remains, writing is a like a muscle. You either use it or lose it. You need to write everyday, no matter what comes your way. COVID-19, war, famine, divorce(s), sick kids, piles of bills that haven't been paid, Christmas, your birthday, whatever. Like Picasso said to his buddy when said buddy asked him why he never spent more time with his kids. "Because I never would have accomplished anything," Picasso responded. 

New Writers Shouldn't Chase Trends

I'm partially guilty of this by doing things like putting "Girl" in one of my titles, The Girl Who Wasn't There. But that's as far as I go. If you're already telling yourself you're going to write the next Harry Potter, well, that ship has sailed, my friend. Remember the vampire bandwagon? And chick lit? I just kept on writing what I loved to read, which in my case is crime and psychological suspense, among other genres. This keeps me writing everyday, and enjoying my job. If you chase trends, chances are, by the time you've finished your book, the trend will have passed. That's why they're called trends. 

New Writers Should Publish Independently and Traditionally

The old ways of publishing are dying not a slow death, but because of this horrid pandemic, a rapid death. I predict that within a couple of years, the majority of major authors will be selling directly to their audience rather than going through a publisher. Or, like me, they will do both (I put out so much material no way a single publisher could handle it all, unless they want to pay me millions which they don't). Speaking of advances: since there are currently only 4 big publishers left, advances will be getting smaller and smaller and smaller. I started out with a quarter million dollar advance from Delacorte in '99. I've had a bunch of nice and very nice advances since then, but nothing that big. Small advances are the wave of the future which means, look forward to creating multiple streams of income. 

So there you have it. Some advice for the new writer. It's not everything you need to know. But it's food for thought from a 25 year veteran of the professional writing and publishing wars. Take it or flush it. It's up to you. But one thing is for sure, once again, the times are changing, and changing fast.