Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The "Papa" I looked at everyday
Reporters, bloggers and readers often ask me about who was my most inspirational writing teacher. Having attended and earned an MFA from Vermont College, you might think it would be one of their esteemed faculty. Not on your life! To be honest, I can't even remember their names. My most inspirational teacher came into my life back in 1979 when I was entering my second year of high school. Recently Writing Daze asked me to blog about my childhood experience. This is what I came up with.
Writing Daze: Frank Nash: the Most Inspirational English Teacher...: "I never set out to be a writer. Back in 1979, when I entered the Second Form in a 200 year old, all boys, military school called, The Alb..."
Thursday, July 22, 2010
"Yo Vin, good to have you back. How's about some hot food and a new contract?"
A lot can change in six months. In just one week I'll receive a statement from my agent which she will receive from one of my two traditionally-based indie publishers regarding sales for Moonlight Falls.
I'm not sure what to expect. But I do anticipate good news since "Moonlight" has been that company's bestseller every month since it came out in December 2009. It also spent a brief time as an Amazon.com bestseller.
Prior to six months ago, I was simply a working stiff freelance journalist who was spending lots of time traveling abroad looking for stories to report or blog about. When news came of an acceptance on Moonlight Falls from a very small publisher, me and my agent didn't have any high expectations for it. We merely giggled and agreed that we'd have a nice looking book to sell to my friends, fans and family. But since that time, I've contracted with a larger indie publisher who has already put out my newest thriller, The Remains, in E-Book and Kindle. It will also be out in trade paperback in November. The audio rights have sold and a very good bookstore distribution agreement has ensued. And who would have thunk it, but The Remains is an Amazon bestseller right out of the gate, and as of last night was listed as an Amazon "Hot New Release" in "Hard Boiled" Kindle.
In the wake of that initial success, I've just signed a contract for both the republication of my 1999 thriller, As Catch Can, and my new thriller series, The Concrete Pearl, to a new imprint largely started for me and a few other novelists and writers.
To what do I attribute the new found success? I'm not sure, other than perhaps my timing is right.
Listen, prior to six months ago, I assumed there might not be a market for my fiction. That, like the great noir novelist before me, Jim Crumley, I might be relegated to pretty much a cult following. And I was fine with that, so long as I could publish a small press effort every few years, pay my bills and travel while working as a full-time writer and journalist. But now it turns out, my audience is expanding like crazy. Everyday it gets bigger.
So, back to the timing thing. Has the emergence of E-Books and Kindle helped my efforts? You betcha. Although I had somewhat of a platform on which to build thanks to having two critically acclaimed thrillers published under two Random House imprints, said platform wasn't all that big anymore, and in fact, was dangerously close to being tossed into the "has been" bucket. But the new electronic publishing model has rapidly changed all that.
Is the on-line publishing world about to become filled up with a whole bunch of crap just because it's easy for independents to get their work out there? Of course it will. But when hasn't there been a whole bunch of crap out there for people to waste their money on? Crap that bleeds off the fingertips of some pretty big perpetual New York Times bestsellers?
What makes the new publishing model interesting and exciting (and has big New York sweating under the pits!) is finally, we all have a level playing field in which to compete for unlimited space. The Remains is selling better than Patterson, Coben, Parker, LeHane and more in several categories. That's not to say that it's better than what they are writing. It's to say that people who enjoy those authors are getting somewhat of a kick out of my new books too. And even though they are also being released in paper and audio, the electronic versions will be available forever. If this were ten years ago, and I were limited to just the Barnes and Nobles tables of the world, The Remains would probably already be heading to the Remainder bin. It simply wouldn't have the backing or the support that the mega authors enjoy.
Don't worry about a whole bunch of crap filling up Amazon and other markets. I trust readers to always pick out the cream and leave the crap behind, just like they always have. But with the new publishing model comes the opportunity for formerly forgotten authors like me to reach a massive audience. It will also allow a talented selection of newbies to outsell their mega-heroes.
I'm now the prodigal son returned to a publishing world that's been turned over on its back. And I'm kicking some real ass!!!
Gee, it's good to be back home.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Is it possible to write yourself into a corner? Is there such a thing as writer's block? Or blocked writers? Maybe, like children, some stories are more difficult than others. Click here to get my take on those stories that "Too Tough to Write!"
To nab the bestselling thriller, The Remains click here!!!!!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Lots of interviewers ask me if I base my characters on real people. And the answer is yes and no. While I always write about real people and real events, I'm pretty good at twisting around the truth to suit my purposes. In the case of The Remains, my newest thriller, I borrowed a real life character from my childhood by the name of Francis Scaramuzzi.
Francis worked in my high school, The Albany Academy, which at the time was a military themed, country day prep school. He was a simple man. What we then called mentally challenged. A sweet, short, portly character who seemed more boy than man, despite his middle age, Francis loved the school and the boys who attended it. He worked in the cafeteria, or what was called, The Buttery, and on occasion he'd hand out towels to the boys on their way out of the showers after athletics. Often, at the end of the day, I'd see Francis waiting at the bus stop on the corner, standing anxiously, wool cap pulled over his head, over-sized jeans yanked way up over his belly, a paper shopping bag in his hand.
I couldn't help but wonder where he lived, and what his home was like. If he lived alone or if he lived with relatives or friends. But it wasn't until many years later, when Francis was in ill health and close to death, that it was discovered he spent many of his nights painting. His painting contained brilliant colors and crafty illustrations and very much reminded the school's art prof of Grandma Moses in theme, tone and delivery. Many of these paintings were sold on Francis's behalf and for a short time, he enjoyed some local fame and notoriety from the local Albany, New York art scene.
Francis, it was discovered, wasn't a simple mentally challenged man so much as he was a gifted painter. A savant. He was the real thing and more.
When I set out to write The Remains, I wanted to make the fascinating Francis a central character and a kind of hero. So I created an autism for him, and made him into a savant who, like the real man, has a terrific gift for painting. In the story, his paintings send messages to the book's central character, Rebecca Underhill, and warning her about a man who has been released from prison and who is now out to get her.
Thanks Francis, where ever you are. For me you are both real and imagined. Your memory is not lost with the ages but lives on in your paintings and your humble character, which now is immortalized in, The Remains.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
"Wow, one spooky house in the woods!"
I've been getting a lot of congratulatory pats on the back as of late now that my newest thriller, The Remains, has debuted on E-Book and been included in the Amazon Top 100 Hard Boiled bestsellers everyday since (it's also showed up on Romantic Suspense a couple of times. Go figure!). But it's really my publisher people should be congratulating. Publishing a novel in electronic format far prior to the paper edition might be considered a risky business in the traditionally based New York publishing scene. But for Stone House Ink, it seemed like the only logical choice considering Kindle downloads are now outselling traditional paper six to one.
By this time next year I will have at least four novels published not only in paper but on all E-Book and in some cases, audio formats, and they will be generating a significant income for me. An income, I might add, that's a reflection of true sales, not advance money. Now that's a responsible publishing model I can live with.
It's awesome seeing your book ascend a bestseller list. Some people might even look at you and call you an "overnight success." But this overnight success took about 12 years worth of overnights to happen. It does however, represent the beginning of a "rekindled" relationship with the new model commercial publishing world.
For more on my feelings about the new E-Book based publishing model, check out this brand new interview. And at the same time, maybe grab up a download of The Remains