Sunday, December 25, 2011

Renewing Your Writer Vows

"Papa wrote everyday, even while on safari."

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone who frequents the Vox.
I've experienced one of the hardest seven days of my life this past week with the unexpected and very sudden death of my dad who dropped dead while tying his shoes after having jogged his daily three miles and having gotten in a full free-weights workout. Being in the possession of a strong heart, even at 76 years of age, he over exerted himself on this particular morning and his heart stopped. No resuscitation possible, despite a valiant effort on the part of EMTs who worked on his chest for nearly an hour. By the time he arrived at the hospital in Albany he was DOA.

My dad was a giver and he liked to be involved even if in a small way in all the lives of his children and grandchildren. He was also a control man who liked to do things his way, and his way only. So now that he is suddenly gone, I find myself wanting to give him a call regarding matters that have to do entirely with him. The paradox is heartbreaking.

Despite the tragedy of his sudden death, I am nonetheless a better man for it in that I have had a lot of growing up to do this week, not the least of which is deciding how I am going to handle the next thirty to forty years of my life. How I can carry on in a way that will make him proud. Curiously, I find myself looking at my writing in a new light. I find myself wanting to work even harder and better than ever. That means slowing down on certain projects in order to grab the most meaning out of the fewest words possible. It will take concentration and a renewed effort.

I also find myself more committed to traveling to some of those exotic destinations I have not yet experienced. Borneo, Tibet, Mongolia,...and beyond. Life is a process and like a story it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Often times we don't know when that end will occur. It can come when you least expect it, like when you're tying your shoes for instance. It's your responsibility to live that life to the fullest in the mean time. And living life means discovering things. The world is out there. Go walk it. And while you're doing that, work hard. Very hard.

Starting Monday, I am renewing my writing vows so that I can hit the New Year in full sprint. You should too. Here's how I'm going to conduct my days:

--Get out of bed by 7AM, and be at my writing desk with coffee in hand by 7:15
--I will write 2 to 3 pages in the morning (or if editing, 10 to 15 pages)
--At around 10:30, I'll go for a run and hit the gym.
--By 1:30, I'll be back at my desk for another 2-3 pages.
--When that's done, I'll put in an hour or so of marketing via the social networks and my blog.
--On Saturdays I will work in the mornings and take the afternoon off.
--Sundays are days off (unless I have a deadline looming).

I'm going to commit myself to this routine even when traveling, so long as it's possible (I understand it's pretty hard to write sentences on your laptop from up on a camel's back). I think my dad would be proud to hear that I'm renewing my writing vows. Everyday he got up, put on his running shoes and hit the pavement in the dark and cold of the dawn, and then he showered up and went off to work. Nothing stopped him from doing what he needed to do for himself and for those around him whom he loved and who depended upon him. He worked to both please himself and to make the world know that he was here, if only for a brief but poingiant time.

Happy New Year!!!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Power of Words

Bri Clark here reporting in for the Vox. Most of you know that Vince's father, Richard Zandri died unexpectedly on Friday. This has forced Vince to take a step back from social media, be with his family, but still work on edits for Thomas and Mercer.

I can't imagine as a writer how truly hard that must be. Working on edits and rewrites for The Innocent and The Remains and planning you're father's funeral. Then that caused me to ask "What can I do to help?"

I could send flowers but Richard was a man well known so I'm sure flowers will abound. I'm 2,000 miles away and it's Christmas. I cant manage making a trip. Which made me feel's Christmas! So I sat in my living room sulking while my family watched football.

And that's when inspiration struck. A player was hurt. And I listened to the announcers say positive things about the player to fill the time. Now I'm not saying I'm going to have Vince hurt. But we as people are formulaic.

When someone dies or is hurt we want to say nice things about them. Express our condolences to the grieving family. And people everywhere have done amazing leaving expressions of empathy to Vince.

But I fear I'm going to call on you again. And ask a question and a favor. Often when death happens we question our we've spent our time. We ask if I died would anyone come? Did I make a difference?

So I ask you dear reader. What has Vincent done for you? Do you look forward to his funny status updates? Do you relate to his personal blog posts? Do you like looking up these pictures of people that he quotes because you're too young to know who they are like i do? Do you just like his books?

Leave your response in the comments below. Let's let Vince return to a blog full of response.


PS Betting is opened to see if I'm fired after this post over at my blog. ;)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blue Ray Edition of Moonlight Falls, Errrrrrrr.....

Are your one of those movie fans who can't get enough of the same movie?
Do you rush out to by the Blue-ray version of your favorite flicks if only to get the extra special features like alternate endings, deleted scenes, and director commentary? When the "new" old Star Wars movies come out, did you pluck them off the shelf as soon as they arrived? Did you buy The Beatles Anthology or the MTV "Unplugged" music performance series???

Now the same "Uncut" experience is available in books.

Before you ask the obvious question: well, isn't that the same as an unedited version of a manuscript?
The answer is more no than yes. Often times novels run too long, or head in a direction that eventually the author decides not to go through multiple rewrites. Sometimes the ending is different from the one he inevitably decides to go with. More often than not, entire different points of views will get cut from the finished product.

Such is the case with my bestselling thriller, MOONLIGHT FALLS. The version published by RJBuckley in 2009 represents the sum total of a dozen drafts and edits. Also, three solid years of work. But now, two years later, I realize there is another version of that same book that is just as, and in some cases, even more exciting than what was eventually published. It's now been published by StoneGate Ink. It offers the reader about 100 new pages of material, most of it in the form of different points of view from many of the novels main characters.

As far as I know, StoneGate Ink is the first indie press to traditionally publish a novel like this, and I can bet you dollars to jelly doughnuts, it won't be the last.

Hope you check out MOONLIGHT FALLS UNCUT EDITION and see precisely what it is you are missing!

Get more Zandri novels: WWW.VINCENTZANDRI.COM

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So Many Words, So Little Time Left

"This year's runaway stocking stuffer...The Mayan Calender."

A very dear friend of mine reminded me just this morning that if the Mayan calender is indeed correct, we've only got about 12 more months on this planet before the whole thing goes Kaboom on December 21, 2012!!!

What this does NOT mean is that I will stop paying my bills.
It does not mean I will stop getting haircuts, or hitting the gym, or jogging my 3-5 miles everyday. It doesn't mean I will cease paying my taxes (although I do so while grinding my teeth), and it doesn't mean that I will stop stopping smoking or take up cocaine, fun as it all sounds.

What it does mean however, is that I am writing like a fiend again. My normal daily output when writing a new novel is five new pages per day. But lately that daily quota has risen to close to ten. In a word, I'm writing like it's the end of the world.

There are other things at play. Like my colleagues at Thomas & Mercer, Scott Nicholson, Lee Goldberg, and Barry Eisler have all astutely pointed out in their popular blogs, 2011 has been a "Golden Age" for writers and digital publication. I've sold hundreds of thousands of e-book editions of my books this past year and now with my new 7 book deal at Amazon, I expect to double those sales next year due to their "matrix" marketing system. Yes, Keanu, I took the red pill.

In the meantime, I want to write books. Not push them.
I no longer feel the pressure to constantly be barking up the social media tree in order to move a few books. I feel like social media has become more a place to say hello to friends and that's the way it should be. Yeah, sure, I'm still gonna taut my books, but the pressure isn't quite what it used to be when I was out there publishing with an indie house all by my lonesome.

Remember a little more than ten years ago when we were all listening to "We're gonna party like it's 1999?" and we were peeing our pants in anticipation of a global computer crash? Well, this year I'm going to write like its December 20, 2012...And if the Mayan calender ends up being wrong, I will have a whole new batch of novels to unleash on the world.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video Games

"Lana Del Rey is a Gamer."

My sons play video games.
Ok, that's an understatement. Not only do my sons (Jack 21 and Bear 17) play video games, they own literally thousands of them. They also own every gaming system available, both TV adaptable and hand-held, and they collect retro systems from the '00s, 90's 80's and even an Atari "Pong" system from the 1970s. The games they purchase and play often arrive to our home in strange packages wrapped in brown butcher paper, postmarked Japan or South Korea and even China. These games will be designed and presented entirely in an Asian language that somehow my sons understand.

The games they play range from G-rated to Mature to Violent with names that have become entirely familiar in and around video gaming circles: Final Fantasy, Mario, Tekken, Street Fighter, and lots more, 

The gaming doesn't stop there.

As many gamers do, my sons are also into the tangental aspects of gaming like graphic novels, video anime, feature length straight-to-video movies, and more. They also maintain a special allure for Bruce Lee, who's early Kung Foo movies curiously follow a video-game-like plot-line of "level's" of battle or fighting, despite their predating practical video game development by a decade or more.

Lately my boys have been designing their own video games starting with humble miniature games in order to educate themselves to the complications and nuances of the art. One day they hope to make their mark on the industry with big games that will be distributed throughout the world.

I grew up with video games which back then in my early teens, were mostly located in video game parlors. Back when you could find records in record stores and books in bookstores. Nowadays it's getting harder and harder to find a video game parlor since just about every household owns some kind of video game system like a Uii or a PlayStation. Certainly just about everyone has access to the Internet. But I never really got into them since I more or less knew that once I was hooked, I would forever be dedicating half my life to sitting in front of a whole bunch of computer generated pixels.

But video games still fascinate me. Especially the ones gamers refer to as "Kill Games."
These first person kill games put you the player in the position of the chaser while you hunt down a series of victims which more often than not assume the form of Zombies (that way they can't ever really be killed). But there are other kill games in which you hunt enemy soldiers or bandits or rednecks driving fast cars. I was curious about what goes into the design of these games and designers who might become so obsessed with making them so realistic and life-like they might go to extraordinary lengths to create them. Like murder for instance. So fascinated in fact, that I decided to wrap a stand-alone thriller around the idea.

The plot I had in mind was not just a simple murder. But an elaborate hunt and chase which would culminate in a murder upon which the chaser would record the victim's screams prior to perishing. The screams would then be used in the design of a Violent First Person video game that would closely resemble the actual hunt and chase that inspired it. That in mind I created a video game designer who is a master of disguise and a serial killer. A man who never stays in the same city for very long and who operates under as many different aliases as he's had facial reconstruction and voice enhancement surgeries. He is a man who will stop at nothing to observe how another human being reacts to a hunt and chase, and he's determined to translate the experience for the video game as accurately as possible.

Even though my sons were able to provide me with almost all the research material I needed for the novel (minus the murder part!) it still took me almost three full years to write the psychological/suspense/horror thriller, SCREAM CATCHER. It's now coming at you in e-Book, trade paper and in a matter of a few weeks, audio, screams and all. It's my contribution to an entertainment genre that has not only fascinated me for a long time, but become an art form unto itself and a way of life for my sons. And even, a living.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Small Blogs Big Give Aways Blog Hop Event

Welcome to the Vincent Zandri Vox romance readers. To celebrate the release of Love At First Sight and celebrate my Amazon best selling romantic suspense The Remains I'm happy to have you wonderful readers here. The two books are included in the prizes. Hang out, take a look around and keep hopping. Good Luck to each of you that looks like a nice prize pack of books.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Modern Marketing Plan

If she were doing a book signing, I'd definitely buy a copy...then get back in line.

My agent just sent over some pretty detailed information for us, his authors in his stable, on how we might go about marketing ourselves in this the ever changing era of digital publishing. What's impressive about the marketing package samples he included with the email is that it's social media heavy. In particular is a bullet about tracking down the top 100 sites that are relevant to your book (be it a hard-boiled mystery, a true crime novel, or a non-fiction narrative about St. Peter and Paul), and then finding ways to either guest blog on them, be interviewed or if none of these, perhaps paying for an advertisement. The point is this: getting your book cover in front of YOUR AUDIENCE!

I like this way of thinking because....:

1. It allows you to focus in on a specific reading group. The old adage applies here. If you shotgun your promotion efforts all across the social media board without a rudder, it's possible no one will see it. But if you focus in on specific peeps who might belong to your tribe, then it's possible everyone sees it.

2. You only have to go as far as your computer to make this work. Whether you're sitting in your bedroom or in a gondola in Venice, Italy, you can become an effective marketer so long as you have an internet signal.

3. Cost. It's potentially free, that is you decide not to pay for advertising.

4. Your audience will grow exponentially so long as you have written a good book. In other words, if it's a good read, the people who frequent these sites will chat it up, and your next book....again if it's good...will probably do even better and so on, and so forth.

So, I applaud my agent here.

But here's where I'm a little sticky with the marketing thing. Much of the sample plan is rooted in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It talks about driving/flying all over kingdom come and doing books signings. It talks about spending hundreds if not thousands on Bling. Yes, that's right. Bling. You know, T-shirts, pins, key-chains, pocket protectors for that nerdy engineer in your life. It talks about driving all over the place to do readings.

Here's my take on this, let's call it old fashioned approach: Unless you are already Stephen King, it doesn't work for shit. Not only will it not work for shit, it will end up costing you money. Book stores are dying while, at the same time, on-line purchases are on the rapid increase. However, if you can find a book store that will grant you a signing as a virtual unknown, it's likely you will sell only a few copies, if you are lucky. In the end, you will have put out gas money, dough for a hotel, plus incidentals like food, and booze...and believe me, if the signing is a total no-show-whiff, you'll want to have a couple of drinks later. You will wake up the next morning with a mustard on your new book cover T-shirt, hungover, and entirely in the red before the tour has even gotten off the ground.

But wait, can't you land a series of readings????
I'm sure you can try with the help of a publicist who might run you anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per month. But beware, unless you are the hot lingerie model pictured above or Tony Bourdaine with a highly popular cable television show that focuses on exotic locales you can only dream of seeing, you are not only going to be invited to speak without pay, it's very likely no one will show up. Again, it'll be another red letter day.

Hey listen, I love my agent. He just scored me a major deal and we have a lot going for us right now. All I'm saying is, folks, forget the old ways of marketing. They might work to a slight extent, but then I could probably pull out the old 8-track player and pop in that Casey and the Sunshine Band tape and let the good times roll. But it doesn't beat my Pandora account or my I-pod. Now there's progress.

What you need to do as authors, is focus on internet, on social marketing opportunities, your blog, your Twitter posts, your Good Reads, You Tube, and Google+ accounts and more.Seek out those 100 prime sites that will  help you focus in on your audience. If you hire a publicist, make sure she or he focuses almost entirely on online promotion and virtual tours for each one of your titles. Only when this solid foundation of internet marketing has firmly been established, and your e-book editions are selling in or around the 10,000 and less range consistently, should you begin to spend time on book signings and readings. What was once a primary marketing consideration is now of secondary importance.


Because e-Books are becoming the dominant form in which we read.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bri Reporting for the Vox: Screamcatcher

Howdy Voxers,

If you don't know from social media I am Vince's new full time publicist. Some of you might know me from Facebook or as a guest blogger here at the Vox. Anyways I'll be popping in with updates, invitations and news from time to time for Vince. With me on board that leaves time for our favorite author to write. So I hope you'll tolerate me. I promise to keep it fun and exciting.

To make good on that promise my first post will be the Scream Catcher blog tour and reveal of the new trailer.

What so different about this Zandri trailer compared to previous ones?

This one has Zandri written all over it from footage, editing, design and creation.

How is that possible? Did Vince invest in a sharpie and write Zandri on everything?

No his son's Jack and The Bear produced and filmed it. The whole idea was Vince's as well.

So sit back, not alone hopefully this is a Zandri trialer, and enjoy. Then check out the blog tour calendar of events below.

December 5:Guest Post@
December 7: Interview@
December 9: Review@
December 21: Review,GuestPost&Giveaway@
December 22:Review@
December 23:Guest Post@
December 23: Review@
December 24:Guest Post&Giveaway@
December 25: Spotlight&Giveaway@
December 26: Review&Giveaway@
December 28: Review @
December 29: Review@
December 30: Review@
December 31: Review@
December 31:Review@

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Rest For The Weary...

"Somebody is loving you...;)"

I'm tired.
Ripped to shreds.
Tossing in the towel.
Asleep on the feet....

I can't believe I just wrote all that. But it's true. I think by now you know me as this unstoppable writer guy who can't sit still for more than the few hours it takes everyday to write his five pages. Invincible Vince, as it were. But since I got back from Europe a couple of months ago I've been undergoing some tremendous life changes, the least of which is signing the new deal for two new books and five backlist books with Thomas & Mercer/Amazon and also not the least of which is my oldest son's 21st birthday.

Life is different for me now in that I'm contemplating a change of living venue...a new heaven on earth. And even though I haven't quite figured out where I will call home over the next six months (whether it will be the US or Europe or both), I can tell that I'm now completing a life phase that includes the completion of four books, four short stories, and articles/blogs too numerous to count in the past five years. It also includes travels....travels encompassing Africa to Moscow and L.A. to Italy, sometimes for a weeks at a time.    

These are just the things I can tell you. Because there are also things happening in my life that I can't quite reveal yet, although I will one day when it's right (It could be months from now!). I know, I know, ... I know what you're thinking. Don't be keeping secrets from inquiring minds. But let's put it this way. I haven't actually been "in love" (I mean real, gut wrenching love) in quite some time and it's possible that where ever I do decide to lay my head, she will be there with me...Enough said on that subject.

Back to business...

But now that I've signed my contracts, I've felt a wave of exhaustion and emotion pour over me like a waterfall. This isn't an unusual experience. Often when I complete a novel (only days ago I completed BLUE MOONLIGHT), I find myself sleeping more than I do spending awake time. It's not an unusual reaction to a job well done.

So what's my point?

I'm always preaching to my peeps to get those pages done, put ass cheeks to the chair cushion, ignore the world and write your pages. But, and this is a big BUT, when your body begins to send you signs that you need to take some time off and relax, don't ignore them. For me, the signs are attention deficit, trembling hands, lack of appetite, upset stomach, inability to enjoy the foods I normally enjoy, night terrors, melancholy, bi-polar like mood swings, and just a desperate need to get some serious sleep.

Or...wait a minute...Hold the freakin' phone...Maybe I'm fooling myself here.
Maybe there's nothing wrong with my writing or work/travel schedule. Maybe all these "signs" as it were have nothing to do with too much on my work plate. After all, writing isn't just a job for me. It's a passion and a hobby and a religion all mixed up together. Maybe they have everything to do with something else. Maybe, just maybe, I've fallen in love....

for ec...;)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Few More Minutes with Andy Rooney

"Former left guard for The Albany Academy football team and young war reporter, Andy Rooney."

I'm having a trouble imagining a world without Andy Rooney. It's kind of like trying to imagine Star Wars without Yoda. How else are we supposed to move on with our lives while having to put up with its everyday absurdities, banalities, and garden variety foolery? Did I just write the word "foolery"?

Andy worked almost right up until the end. As writers we never retire. But he did give up the TV gig with 60 Minutes only a month ago, which should serve as a sort of be a warning to those seniors who insist on working well into their golden years. Don't give up the day job!

I can just picture this week's A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney if only we were to be graced with one more. He'd appear in the crumpled up suit he pulled out from under his bed, even though God would probably offer him a nicer choice of threads. He might look a little younger, maybe because he wouldn't be in pain. Old age is often accompanied by aches and pains. He might bear a little more of a smile. His eyebrows might be trimmed. But I think otherwise, he'd be the same old crotchety Andy. The subject of his spot would be "Retiring."

"It's not retiring that's hard," he'd write. "It's the dying part of retirement that is."
He might say that had he known he was gonna cash it all in within a month of retirement, he would have negotiated a better end-of-career bonus with the network. He would have coined this as a "Sure to Perish Immediately Upon Retirement" clause or something like that. Then he might have mentioned other famous men and women who have "retired" and died soon after. Since I can't think of anyone famous who has died very soon after quitting their job, I can tell you that I've had a couple of uncles who retired from the construction business and died within a year or so. It's a warning for my dad who at 76 is still putting in a full week. Keep working!!!

Andy was an everyman's writer in that he didn't believe in writer's block anymore than a plumber believes in plumber's block. He once wrote: "Writers are repeatedly asked to explain where they get their ideas. People want their secret. The truth is there is no secret and writers don't have many new ideas. At least, they don't have many ideas that a comic strip artist would illustrate with a light bulb over their heads."

Andy's ideas came from the everyday. Like procrastinating before getting to work. Or having to deal with pulling out all that cotton filling in your plastic bottle of Advil. Once he wrote about how the French had expelled something like 47 then Soviet spies that year from France. "That's a lot of spies," he wrote.
I mean, how can you not smile and laugh a little on the inside when you read that?

I've met Andy on a few occasions, most of them having to do with a private high school we both attended up in Albany called The Albany Academy. I attended the place in the 80s and Andy in the 30s. The place has changed a lot in the many years since I moped around its marble halls. But back in the early 80s it wasn't much different than the school that Andy attended. It was a military country day prep school that prided itself on discipline as much as it did sports and the arts. We wore military uniforms and ate not in a cafeteria, but a "buttery." Also, Andy played left guard for the football team and so did I. We played the same position and we were both under five feet, eight inches. We took a lot of pounding in those four years, but we gave a lot out too. Maybe that's why we became writers. All that head banging will prevent you from looking at the world in a conventional way.

I guess I've known Andy my whole life, having first taken notice of him when 60 Minutes would pop on the TV after the New York Giants football games. Even if we were bummed out about the Giants losing a barn burner to the rival Dallas Cowboys in the last minute of the last quarter, and even if we were in a black mood over having to go to school or work in the morning, we could always count on Andy gracing the screen in his wrinkled suit. You'd wait for the topic of his "few minutes" with baited breath. When finally he'd come out with something like, "It costs us almost a quarter for every mile we drive a car," we knew we were in for something special about something not so special. And that getting up in the morning and putting on your socks one at a time, wasn't all that different from the life he was living. Andy was just a regular guy in possession of an extraordinary talent.

I'm going to miss Andy Rooney and his words and his unconventional wisdom about the conventional. I'm going to miss running into him and having to remind him of my name and what I do for a living. That stuff never bothered me because I was such a fan with a little hero worship sprinkled in. Did you know that during World War II Andy spent about an hour hiding in a ditch alongside a road that had been strafed by German planes along with Ernest Hemingway? How many people can brag about something like that? But Andy would be the last guy on earth to talk about Papa. He'd be more apt to comment on how every buffet you dine at no matter how nice the facility always offers you Sweedish meatballs. He'd write about how you couldn't resist the Sweedish meatballs even after some of the gravy got on your tie and stained it. He'd show up on TV the next week with the same tie and the same stain. It would become a heated topic of discussion. A philosophy. A reason to carry on in the everyday. 

Enjoy the afterlife Andy.
Keep writing.
Keep being you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Boise has Babes

There is more to this career than writing, marketing, and reading. Travel is part of it. Which anyone who reads this blog knows I love to do. I spend more time in a plane than I do in my apartment. But in addition there is the presentation of my experience, knowledge and advice I'm invited to share at conferences.

Halloween weekend I was privileged to head back to that secret haven of literary genius Boise ID. I spoke on the industry, balancing life, the future of publishing and my career in general. My publicist Bri got some photos for the Vox. Unfortunately she was never around when I wanted a picture of one of the good looking women, usually married, that passed by. Wonder if she planned it. Anyways below are what she captured.

IBE was held in downtown Boise

Here I spoke from Backlist to Bestseller

On a round table with Don Jacobson, Tim Vandehey, and Maryanna Young discussing the future of publishing

Later there was an author mixture but most of those pictures we won't show. However, here is a few.

My bro (and Abe Lincoln lookalike) and the brains behind Stone House Ink Aaron Patterson.

Donna Fletcher Crow has been writing books for 30 years.

And that's Bri. Aaron celebrated by taking all Stone House's people out for dinner. Mmmm Lasagna

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Love Stinks

"I love you so much. Even though we only just met 24 hours ago and you're about to be blown to smithereens by a German mortar shell."

I write a lot about love. 
I can't avoid it. 
In any given story there's got to be a love element. Whether it's about falling in love, or out of love, or about avoiding love for a moment or two of lust, which can be lovely but entirely devoid of being in love...if you catch my drift.

Bear with me here.

Truth be told, I'm a total sap. So what that means is, I'm especially attracted to those stories that not only pit one man against the world, but that also contain an almost impossible to fulfill love story. You know, the stories about unrequited love, or love that's crushed due to vast distances in geography, time, or space. Then there's the love and war stories that made Papa so famous, and even the Hammett-style hard-boiled drama of the private detective who falls in love with the "dame" who turns out to be a black window. In the end he's got no choice but to watch her being carted away to jail while he flips up the collar on his leather coat, lights a cigarette with his Zippo, and walks away from it all in the rain-soaked neon lit darkness. If you've never read my noir novels, THE INNOCENT, MOONLIGHT FALLS or even SCREAM CATCHER, it's the latter image of love-gone-wrong that you will inevitably receive. 

Realistic...Even more yes.

I'm one of those authors who like Hemingway or Mailer likes to taut the tough guy image in his main characters (even if the main character is a woman like in CONCRETE PEARL). But I also like to show off their sensitive side. Mostly I do this by proving how prone they are to falling head over heels for someone (as opposed to heels over head). They don't just love with a logical perspective attached to the emotion. They love until it hurts; until they can't sleep or eat or function as a productive human being. In a word, they suffer love so much that they are reduced to a sweat-soaked bundle of or rags and bones. When these ill-fated characters are separated from their love interests by either geography or breakup, their imaginations play evil tricks in them. So evil that Richard "Dick" Moonlight, anti-hero of my Moonlight series, once placed a .22 caliber revolver to his head, and pulled the trigger. 

That "Love is Kind" Bible passage that always gets read at weddings is pure bullshit.

Love isn't kind.
Love stinks. 
Love hurts.
Love sneaks up on you when you least expect it.
Love is not friendly.
Love is like water torture. 
Love will drive you to drink.
Love causes suicide.
Love sucks.
But for some reason, love is what we all crave and live for.

Falling hopelessly in love is unbearable. Especially when you find someone whom you've been searching for your whole life and by reasons of timing or commitment to another, can't quite as easily give the love back. Even if she wants to more than anything in the world. 
Such is life. 
Such is romance.
Such is Cupid's painfully sharp arrow.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Cards You Have Been Dealt

Five years ago I thought my novelist days were over.
My two-book contract with Random House had not been renewed after I didn't earn out a mid-six-figure advance. I had no prospect of publishing with a new major publisher since leaving six-figures on the table was tantamount to career suicide. I could no longer afford my house, or my Jeep. My wife, who married me when things were going great in the literary life, no longer felt so eager to be married to a man who couldn't get his third book published, even after we'd just had a child together. In her defense, we were hitting financial rock bottom.

While her family was screaming at me (sometimes literally) to "get a job" and "write on the side," they had also begun to initiate the process over which my wife would eventually cave in. Her family made her a deal she couldn't refuse: leave the bum and we'll take care of you. Buy you a new house, pay for your living expenses, help you raise your daughter.

My wife was left with a difficult choice to make. Stick with her husband and soul mate, and work through this very hard period, or choose to side with her family. She chose the latter. In doing so she played her hand, cashed in her chips, and removed herself from the gaming table. But at least she became financially stable again and wasn't even required to get a job in order to maintain her bank account.

I too chose not to get a job, but to stay the course of the writer. However, the hand I'd been dealt didn't look too sweet. It consisted of a whole lot of low cards with a couple of jokers tossed in. But there was nothing left for me but to stay the course no matter how bleak the future. I'd lost my wife, my child, my house, my money, and possibly, my career. You'd think I'd lose my sanity at the same time? But writing was my sanity, and it was my solace and my art, and no amount of outside pressure was going to extinguish the fire that burned from within. Call it stubbornness in the face of absolute calamity. Call it stupidity. Call it what you will. But like the bulldog that gets its arm stuck in the trap, I'd rather chew it off then die on someone else's terms.

So what did I do?

I downsized. I rented a 900 sq.ft. apartment with my two sons, and decided to start all over again. In other words, I didn't fold my cards, but instead, decided to persist at the gaming table and play them no matter how much bluffing and game-facing it was going to take. Curiously, in the immediate wake of my marital demise, doors started opening for me. I went back to freelance journalism, and began to build up a cache of published articles, professional blogs, global assignments and a new reputation as a foreign correspondent and photo-journalist. Within a year of splitting with my wife, I found myself on assignment in Africa, Moscow, Italy, Spain and other exotic locals. I was living and working in places like Florence, Italy for up to a month at a time, and making money at it. I became happy, but I also became a bit perplexed. Why wasn't I able to take advantage of these working opportunities when I was married? What was it about the marriage that made it impossible for me to succeed? Were the two related, or was my new found success in the absence of marriage entirely a coincidence?

While my non-fictional life regained momentum, I also went back to serious fiction writing. I wrote MOONLIGHT FALLS, THE REMAINS, CONCRETE PEARL, and PATHOLOGICAL, all within a 36 month period. I found a new agent who loved my previously published work and the new work even more, and who committed herself to finding me a new home, even if that new home were a smaller press than I was used to. In terms of playing my hand, it wasn't a matter of walking away with the entire the pot at this point, it was a matter of getting back into the game and staying there, improving my hand the entire time with each and every ante.

Things happened. Good things.
I contracted with a small press for MOONLIGHT FALLS. Despite all expectations, and a new-found appreciation for social media marketing and virtual tours, it hit the hard-boiled bestseller list on Amazon and stayed there. It was my first experience ever being a bestseller of any kind. That one experience led to a new contract for THE REMAINS. One which caught me off guard. Up until a few years ago, I really had no idea what an E-Book was. But my agent was so excited about the new opportunities in this medium that she could hardly express herself without hyperventilating. She informed me that she was about to strike up a new deal with a new publisher out of Boise of all places. A new young, maverick publisher who was making waves in the industry by publishing mid and back-listers like me, who although previously published by major houses, had found themselves treading water in a purgatorial sea of uncertainty, disbelief and utter terror at what the future might hold.

The publisher, StoneHouse Ink, would publish THE REMAINS in E-Book first and then paper. Which at the time, I thought was bass-ackwards. Paper always comes out first, followed by the e-book and audio. My agent persevered and asked me to give it a try. There'd be no advance, but I would be offered instead a 50% royalty rate on all E-Books sold. What's more, the book would be released within two months from contract execution. Something unheard of in traditional legacy publishing realms. Believing the whole endeavor would crash and burn, I nonetheless trusted my agent, and said to myself, "What the hell!" I anted up, and stayed in the game deciding to keep on playing the new cards I'd been dealt.

Then something wonderful happened.
I not only hit the bestseller list in Hard-Boiled Mystery. But I hit the Romantic Suspense and Psychological Thriller lists as well. The numbers kept improving. Encouraged, StoneHouse Ink started a new imprint for hard-boiled writers like myself and called it StoneGate Ink. They published my former Random House books, THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD, now that the publishing rights had been released. These books would go on within six months of E-Book publication to not only make their respective bestseller lists, but to hit the overall Amazon Kindle Bestseller Lists, not just in North America, but in several European countries as well. In fact, THE INNOCENT would go on to grace the Kindle Top Ten Overall Bestseller's list for 7 weeks, and the Top 100 for almost 20 weeks. At one point I was selling 3,000 E-Books per day and moving more units than Stephen King. In the end, "Innocent" sold over 100,000 copies during the Spring rush. Within five years of contemplating cashing it all in and folding my cards, I'd become an International Bestseller. Poor Random House. If only they'd had faith that my books had the potential not only to earn out my six-figure advance but also to make a nice tidy profit, they might have kept on publishing me instead of remaindering all of my work and holding the rights hostage for ten years.

That was five months ago. Things haven't been the same since.

The most dramatic change has been the new cards I've been dealt. I've now signed a new lucrative contract with the renegade Amazon powerhouse publisher, Thomas & Mercer, the major player who is publishing not only my new novel, Murder By Moonlight, but nearly my entire back-list. But that doesn't mean I can't maintain my relationship with the StoneInks and continue to publish as an independent. It also means I will continue my work as a journalist and an explorer. Because in the end, I've learned, it's not the cards you have in your hand, it's how you play them. It's also a matter perseverance, a steadfast belief in one's self and one's talents, and an ability to keep on working even during some of the most tumultuous, depressing, and indeed, angering times you will ever experience in a single lifetime. It means developing the skills never to be defeated and to grow stronger in the broken places.

This past weekend, my ex-wife and I took our six year old daughter for a ride out in the country to pick out pumpkins and apples. It was a bright sunny Fall afternoon on the Upstate New York/New England border with the leaves on the trees having turned all shades of brilliant red, orange and yellow. One of those days where you can get away with either a sweater or a light jacket. We spent the day as if we were a tight knit family. And in a way are tightly knit and certainly even closer than some marriages that exist in a state of siege. My ex and I were able to look into one another's eyes and realize that all the anger over what happened when my career temporarily tanked is past. There remains now only our child and bringing her up knowing that she has two parents who love her and who will be there for her thick or thin. No amount of literary success or sales can ever replace that.
But I recognize a distinct sadness in my ex-wife's eyes now when I peer into them. I believe the sadness is wrought over something that could never be changed or reversed once it was put in place by the very same people who were once responsible for her well being as a child and adolescent. Her adult life decisions and the effect it has had on her now as a middle aged woman ring out and reverberate with an irony so intense, it is both deafening and bone shattering.

But my ex-wife and I, we are no better than anyone else. Life isn't exactly fair. You win some and you lose some. But one thing however is for certain: we, as writers, are all victims of our desires, slaves to love, and powerless in the face of blind passion. We are artists and we are as much blessed by God as we are doomed by the fallen angels.

My ex-wife and I still love one another. We often remind each other of it. Many times I don't get off the phone with her without saying, "Love you." But we cannot have one another any longer. Perhaps it's too late to rekindle embers that have not only grown cold, but have disintegrated and seeped into the earth over the course of the many seasons. But if we are the least bit intelligent, we have both learned a vital lesson five years in the making. When you're dealt a hand of cards and you are forced to make the final decision on whether to stay in the game no matter the quality of the hand, or to fold them and walk away from the table, the decision better be the right one. Because when the time comes for the great dealer in the sky to make His call, and all bets are suddenly off, you will be left alone with your choice, right or wrong.
That choice had better come straight from the heart, because it will be something you must live with for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In the Fall of the Year. Or, The Path Not Taken

"Do I go right or left?"

My brief ten day hiatus from the blogosphere is now officially over. My thanks to the guest bloggers who more than took up the slack. You enabled me to get through the new draft of BLUE MOONLIGHT (the sequel to the newly released MOONLIGHT RISES) while offering some sage advice on writing, marketing, and just living the literary life in this the digital age.

I'm calling this "In the Fall of Year..." because even though Fall is my favorite season by far, it seems always to accompany serious change in my life and in some cases, downright turmoil. Maybe the Fall is actually no different from any other season, but that it just seems more intense since this is the time when I am at my most creative. What did Hemingway once say about the Fall: That's the time when real writers put pen to paper. But I also think it has something to do with the proximity of death in that whole the Fall-leads-to-Winter notion of the idea.

Since my return from Europe in September I've realized several ends and even more beginnings. As for the former, my relationship with my girlfriend came to an final end, and as for the former, my son Harrison was able to take his GED exam (he assumes he passed). Now he can begin his work as a writer and video game designer in earnest. Such are his plans. His brother Jack will turn 21 in two weeks, and it will certainly be interesting, to say the least, to view my son as an adult, rather than a kid. While my brief foray into the world of independent publishing comes not to a full closure, but rather that of a transition back into traditional publishing, I find myself at a cross-roads.

Do I remain in Albany, and continue to forge ahead with a life here? Or, at 47, do I look for a new place to begin again? Even if it's only thirty miles away. Final destination possibilities abound inside my skull like those steel ball-bearings that bounce against the insides of a spray paint can. At one minute I'm thinking New York City while the very next, I'm thinking Florence, Italy, full-time. Both are expensive these days, so I'm also thinking somewhere out west like Boise, but then I'll look at a small Hudson River town not far south from where I live now and I think, Yah, that's the ticket...Small town living while remaining in the general proximity of Manhattan and just 6 hours to Europe. 

Whether I move or not, the point is not location, but transition. We all need to recognize when our entire being requires a tune-up and the best time for that is during these transitional phases. Who wants to be that fat guy sitting on the couch watching reality TV with a beer in hand chanting, "Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda...?"

Well, first of all I don't watch reality TV and second of all, I don't even own a TV any longer. But as we age, life becomes a slippery slope, and next thing you know, you've just spent the airline ticket money on a new LCD and a satellite hookup. Welcome to soft middle age.

This has been one of the best years of my life in terms of career, creativity, travel, and attempting to piece together this life that I have stubbornly built for myself. The transition isn't over yet by a long shot. But sooner than later, I will be forced to make a few hard decisions and once their made, I'm going to have to stick to them.

Now that's the scary part about life. Sticking to your decisions once you've made them.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How to Build an Author's Platform by Bri Clark

"Beauty and brains...Can you ask for anything more?"

I've known Bri Clark for a while now, and she has become one of the most savvy marketing pros around. She's also a hell of a writer, her new novels climbing the charts each day...She's packed in quite a bit of experience in her short 26 or 27 years and she's earned her stripes both as a author marketing consultant and fiction author...

I'm always proud to have her guest post for me...and here she is:

Author Platform: Keyword being Author
By Bri Clark
Let’s talk author platform, first by defining what exactly it means.
Author Platform: The marketing base on which an author builds, contributes to, and draws from throughout their career.
In my opinion author platform is not defined by your genre or publisher, but by you the author. Can you use the fact you are a Christian Fiction Thriller Author to build you blog, social media accounts, speaking engagements around. Go right ahead. However, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Do you know how many Christian Fiction Thriller Writers there are? A lot….huh? Same thing goes for paranormal romance writers. (that’s one of my hats) A freaking lot.
The point is you want to stand out and be noticed. Then retain those that have found you.
Now I’ll give you two examples of authors who did not limit themselves by their genre or genres.
First, my gracious host. Vincent Zandri. Take the title of his blog for example.
The Vincent Zandri Vox.
Two Points
·        His name is included in the title and the url. This is a must for SEO optimization.
·        Vox in itself tells you he’s a guy who isn’t typical. In fact, it almost acts as a warning in saying. Hey you are definitely going to learn in a way that is outside the box.
Second, myself.
Bri Clark the Belle of Boise
Two Points
·        My name is included in the title and url. This is a must for SEO optimization.
·        The Belle of Boise. I am a southern belle to the core. And I recently moved to Bosie ID. People here love hearing how I speak, my sayings and my heritage.
I believe I can speak for myself as well as Vincent that by keeping our core personalities of who we are as people, as authors the principle of the platform it’s much easier to build upon. My posts on my blogs are as varied from balancing a career and my daughter’s birthday parties, to how to write a proper blog post. Vincent’s range from general debauchery to his recent contract with a traditional publishing house.
The point is fair writers and authors if it’s you that’s your foundation you won’t find yourself floundering in this maze of a publishing world.
What’s your platform? What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Very Good Reason to Skip the PhD by Calee M. Lee, my second Guest Post

I'm in the midst of driving my 17 year old son Bear back and forth to his GED exam, so you can image how author/publisher Calee M. Lee's guest blog hits home. Bear wants to be a writer and a novelist and with today's education system actually inhibiting learning on an individual level, he has chosen self-education above traditional. Not that this is entirely what my guest post is about, but it certainly struck a nerve. Calee is proof that not only do you not need a PhD to survive in indie world, taking the time to get one can cost you valuable writing and publishing time. She's made a success at both.

Here's her take on it:

A Very Good Reason to Skip the PhD

By Calee M. Lee

Remember the week that Amanda Hocking signed her major book deal? It was sunny and warm in southern California, and my email inbox was filled with rejection. I’d been a successful copywriter for years, but I was been missing my first love—story. I’d just finished a MA program in English Lit (to get back to reading and writing and talking about stories) and a PhD seemed like the next logical step.
Or not.
Once I realized I would not be attending grad school in the fall, my brain suddenly had a lot more available space. For what, I wasn’t sure, but when a friend posted a link to a Wall Street Journal article and I wound my way through the Internet’s maze of self-publishing blogs, I thought that perhaps I would get back into writing creatively after all.
Initially, my plan was to round up a crew of my playwright buddies, put together a collection of our 10-minute plays, and let the Internet do the rest.  That idea is still on my to-do list, but after thoroughly researching the market, making a number of soon-to-be-repealed proclamations to my husband, and remembering why those 10-year-old writing projects were still locked in drawers—Xist Publishing was born.
When I looked at my Kindle, I saw a list of new books for me, a New Yorker subscription, and a handful of children’s books either without pictures, or with images so poorly formatted that, while my daughter was hungry to get her grubby little hands on my Kindle, they weren’t the sort of thing I was excited to give her.  One afternoon, instead of doing laundry, I began writing a children’s story I’d been telling for years.  I called a friend. He agreed to illustrate it. The Queen and the Cats has been the #1 Christian Children’s Biography since it launched September 14th.
I called more friends and they agreed to let me publish their children’s books. I wrote more books. I spent hours learning InDesign. Books like Secret Agent Josephines ABCs and Caterpillars Dont Check Email went live on Amazon. Rinse. Repeat.
It’s still the Wild West for children’s ebooks and I’m more than curious to see what Amazon’s $79 Kindle and the Color Kindle Fire will do for my business. It’s no surprise that kids are embracing the technology, but ebook sales for children are still lagging behind print and I’ve yet to see a picture book reach the top 100 on the Amazon bestseller list. Of course, that may all change this Christmas or next. The fun part is being along for the ride.
Since there are so few voices in the indie ebook arena that are talking about kids, I’d love to know what the readers here think. Are you writing children’s books? Buying them?
I currently sell about 50% print, 50% ebook on Amazon, but when you figure in our sales of print copies to indie bookstores, ebooks really only take up about 10% of the pie. Any predictions on when that might change?

Calee M. Lee is the author of The Queen and the Cats: A Story of Saint Helena and Caterpillars Dont Check Email and the editor of We Love BUGS: 31 Classic Insect Poems for Kids.  She is the founder of Xist Publishing, producing books for the touchscreen generation.

Xist Publishing:
The Queen and the Cats:
We love BUGS: