Friday, January 27, 2012

So You Wanna Be a Novelist...Well Read This

"No one ever called Picasso an asshole..."

So you wanna be a...yeah, yeah. yeah, you read the headline.
But it's true. You wanna write books and have them published by an awesome major or cool indie or DIY or whatever and however you wanna do it. The point here is, you wanna live the life, right? Come on, am I right?

Maybe you model your life after Papa Hemingway who would write in the mornings and fish and drink in the afternoons. Or perhaps Norman Mailer who was more famous than many movie stars and had the ear of most presidents, including JFK. Or perhaps Truman Capote suits your temperament and you can be the Prince of New York, Black Tie Party and all. Or maybe you fancy yourself more like Anais Nin who wrote by hand in her diaries and made love with men and women in Paris like it was an anthropological study. And in a way it was.

So, then there's me.

Little old humble me (Ok, maybe not so humble...). Admittedly I live a great life, even if I have f'd up most of my relationships (Ok, all of them...but who's counting). I get to travel, eat and drink where I want, when I want. If I want to sleep late I can, and if I want to work in my boxer shorts I can do that too (My daughter bought me a pair with cute little skunks on them...perhaps there's a message behind it). In any case, it is a great life and it beats punching a card at the steel mill. But believe it or not, the life ...this writer's not all peaches and heavy creme.

Take a typical day for me...A recent day.

Get up in frigid apartment. Early (I'm too busy to sleep late.)
Write a small building design piece for one of the few trade pubs I still work for (I refuse to give up journalism entirely. I did that once before and regretted it.) From there I'll put in a few hours writing new fiction, perhaps for my new book Precious. Then it's maybe a three mile run in the cemetery (...again, there's probably some sort of meaning behind this) and a visit to the gym for some weight lifting. Then it's eat-lunch-not-in-some-fancy-nancy-eatery-or-bistro, but at my desk (and it's probably canned soup), while I hit a content edit for one of the new books being published in the Spring. Moonlight Rises or Concrete Pearl.  Oh, also there might be some cover design consultation with the publisher, plus I'm required to go over an entire copy edit, comment for comment, and have it back by Monday or so. They need a new photo too. Oh, and the third round of Blue Moonlight edits is about to arrive and I have to go through that and get it back ASAP. I can't forget the virtual tour for "Love at First Sight" and my Twitter, FB, and other social networking obligations. And did I mention blogging twice a week?

What did I forget???

Probably several things, but I always seem to make time for my shrink, who has described my life, not as a poet/artist who spends his days creating in the studio and his nights making love to the women of his choice while the wine and food seems never ending. This ain't Picasso baby. It's more like, toss the Lean Cuisine into the microwave, down it with a cold beer, and then get into bed to read. Alone. In which case I'll be asleep before I get through two pages. But then I'll be up at three in the morning, heart pumping, pulse pounding, because I forgot to blurb the five books I've committed to. Oh, did I mention that? Blurbing books???

Hey, I'm not complaining. I'm living the life and loving it. I'm just trying to tell you guys, it ain't all roses, full bellies, boozed brains, and orgasms galore. It's a lot of hard work and sacrifice (Did I mention the relationship thing? Oh, yah, I did...).

I don't know, maybe I'll sleep in tomorrow. It's Saturday.

Crap, I have a deadline on Tuesday. And one on Friday, and two more in  between...

Think I'll stop writing this blog and go to the bar...Me and my vision of Picasso.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

So Little Time, So many Words

"Die hippy!"

I haven't had the chance to blog as much as I would to like lately. I'm in the middle of the rewrite for the third book in what will eventually be five books and five total rewrites as a part of my new seven book deal...

....Ummmm you following me here.

Suffice to say I'm so over the top busy I'm not sure if it's Sunday or Wednesday. Things are so frantic I sometimes feel like Dirty Harry trying to answer all those pay phones for that creepy hippy kidnapper/assassin dude on the streets of San Fransisco. But also like Harry, what I have to ask myself is this: "Do I feel lucky?"

I do feel lucky. Because this kind of frantic is a good kind of frantic. The new book deal kind of frantic. It's what we all wish for as writers.

As for the schedule: I have one more solid month at home and then I start traveling again. In that time I will have gone over and addressed the content edits for my noir thrillers Moonlight Rises, Blue Moonlight, Murder by Moonlight, Concrete Pearl and The Remains. The Innocent and Godchild have already undergone an extensive content edit when they were with Delacorte and Dell respectively, so no use in putting them through the ringer again. Naturally all these books will be copy-edited once more and what were some pretty big blunders in previous editions will no doubt be corrected. Hey, we're talking the majors here.

What this means for now is that Vincent Zandri, Noir Author is about to take a short Winter's nap (after hitting the gym) and then another couple hours of work. But then I'll take in some playoff football and cheer along my New York Football Giants as they crush the San Fransisco 49's ("You feeling lucky punks?".

It's good to take time off from the writing game in order to recharge. But sometimes you need to meet your deadlines. That's the life. As writers, these are the pressures we so crave. And it still beats having to get up in the morning to go to a job.

Hey Harry, if the phone rings, don't answer it!

Stay tuned....


Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Kindle and the Ladies Book Club (Part II)

"Yeah, this pic is slightly off topic, but I'm a pig..."

If you recall I wrote a blog post for the Vox last year titled The Kindle and the Ladies Book Club in which I explained my personal experience of pushing my novel Moonlight Falls to a local ladies book club while at the same time, singing the praises of this new little clever electronic reading contraption called the Kindle. You might remember how resistant the ladies were to even the mere thought of giving up paper for reading something on a computer screen. "It will hurt my eyes," one of them said. "I love the smell and the feel of paper," said another. It seemed there was nothing I could do to persuade this crowd of a dozen educated, attractive, and for the most part, 50+ women (aside from one young woman who might be about 30) about the benefits of owning a Kindle, the least of which is being able to store an entire library inside something smaller than your average Denny's menu.

I revisited the Ladies Book Club this past week where the book of the month was The Paris Wife. Obviously I am not the author of that book, but I am somewhat of a Hemingway aficionado. So I was there to dispel the fact from the fiction. While we were talking about Papa and his affairs, somehow the subject shifted back to e-Readers and how well some of my novels had done in that market over the past year, The Innocent and The Remains especially. While one woman chimed in immediately, proclaiming that she would still never buy "one of those things," a couple of others pursed their lips, cocked their heads over their shoulders and, somewhat bravely I might add, announced that they were seriously thinking about buying one. One of the two was interested in a Kindle Fire, and the other a Nook. Since I more or less work for Amazon now, I tried to talk the Nook person out of it, and I think I succeeded. What came as a surprise, but shouldn't have, was that the young, thirty something woman, had indeed already bought a Kindle and she was beaming about it.  "It's awesome," she said. "So much easier to read than paper."

So I guess, my prediction that by this time this year all these women would own a Kindle or an e-Reader of some kind was a little bit off, but not too far off. After all, it's tough to break away from old tried and true habits, especially after 45. I should know, I'm 47. But I'm guessing all it will take is another few months before the Ladies Book Club becomes the Ladies Kindle Club. Has a better ring to it anyway.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back in the "W" Column

"Big Blue in action, taking all the right winning chances."

I'm watching the New York Giants play in their first playoff game since 2008 (Don't quote me on that). I haven't gotten the chance to watch much pro football the past few years because usually I spend much of the Fall in Italy. But this year I spent most of the summer in Europe which freed up the football season. Still, work got in the way and I didn't see many games, and then when my team, The New York Football Giants began to lose consecutive games, I figured they'd never make the playoffs anyway. So why worry about watching? Hell, I don't even have a TV.

But then something strange happened. Well, not strange, but important all the same.
The Giants started to peak late in the season.
They regrouped, took a good look at their mistakes, made attempts to correct them, healed their injuries, placed the past in the past and started looking towards the future. And in doing so, they started to win.

Life is like that.
Sometimes when things look like they will never be repaired or healed, you suddenly find yourself back in the winner's circle. I played football for eight years so I guess I feel comfortable with the football metaphor, and after getting my head banged up for all those seasons, I feel like I've earned the right to use it.

But to get back to my point...
Five or more years ago when I was writing the first drafts of my suspense/thriller, SCREAM CATCHER, I had just separated from my wife. I didn't have a new publisher and was barely making a living as a freelance journalist. It was during this time I took a step back and tried to reassess my life. Where had I gone wrong after having scored a major deal with a Random House imprint for two novels (THE INNOCENT and GODCHILD) and at the same time, married the love of my life, only to lose them both?

Curiously, I couldn't point at any one thing I'd done wrong, only that they had gone wrong. So how would I repair my life and get back to my winning ways and perhaps even win my love back? I didn't have the answers. But I did know this: If I made a renewed commitment to hard work and to writing the best books I could in the shortest amount of time, my publishing losses would take care of themselves and begin turning into wins. In other words, instead of brooding and reaching for a quick fix, I started behaving like a winner. This past Spring, when I sold over 100,000 e-Books of The Innocent in 60 days and it resulted in a 7 book "very nice" deal with Thomas & Mercer, I knew that I had indeed taken the necessary steps in order to get back to my winning ways.

All professional success aside, I still had my personal life to think about. My love life. I'd enjoyed some very nice and fulfilling relationships with some very good, if not exceptional women. But for some reason, none of these relationships were working out in the long term. What was going wrong? Like I did with my professional life years earlier, only very recently did I take a step back, reviewed some game tapes as it were, and decided to start becoming a new man. A man who could not only be trusted, but who could trust himself to do the right things. No one wants to be a Facebook or Twitter flirt forever, and frankly, by the time you hit your mid forties, if you still gotta rely on FB "pokes" and "winks" for your jollies, you deserve to be alone.

In the wake of my dad's sudden death, I've started spending some time with someone who used to be very close to me. Very close. We've had some very good times amidst some seriously stressful and sad situations. We're both finding one another as single, free adults with open hearts. That we are becoming friends again and more is plainly obvious. That we are taking it slow and careful is also obvious and smart of us. We're older now. More mature. But we're still very much attracted to the same things that attracted us in the first place all those years ago. You can see it and feel it whenever our eyes connect.

I guess we have every reason not to take a chance on this. We have a history together. A history that went bad. But then, love isn't sometimes risky. It's always risky. So is the writing game. The New York Giants have only inches to go in order to nail a first down. Problem is, it's fourth down. They can take a shot and "go for it" or they can play it safe and kick it away.

They're going for it.

The big bull running back barrels his way through a very mammoth and angry Falcons defensive line.  

They've gone for it and they got the first down.

They took a shot, that now is resulting in a touchdown and the game lead.

Sometimes all that's necessary to becoming a winning player again in life and love is to not only learn from your mistakes, but to simply start living your life like a winner.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Best Writing Advice

"Dawn...Get up and bite the nail!"

I've been doing a lot of interviews lately about the best writing advice anyone ever gave me. One such interview I did (if you want to call it that) was for my rock star agent, Chip MacGregor or the MacGregor Literary Agency. Chip has just put the finishing touches on a "very nice" 7 book deal for me, which includes two new ones, Blue Moonlight and Murder by Moonlight for the Dick Moonlight series and five of my back-list titles, the top ten and top twenty Amazon Kindle bestselling  The Innocent and The Remains among them.

In his newest blog post at MacGregor, Chip asks me and several other authors in his stable, what's the best writing advice anyone has ever given you. Here's my answer:  "The best writing advice I ever got came from Ernest Hemingway in the form of his memoir, A Moveable Feast. If writers are worried about one thing, it's the ability to keep a story moving from day to day. To avoid the 'block,' as some people call it. Papa wrote slowly and methodically in the early morning hours, and trained himself to stop at a point where he knew what was going to happen next. That way he could be sure of getting started the next day -- and it left him the afternoons to play, exercise, fish, drink, or do whatever he wanted."

Taking this a step further, I want to talk a little about mornings.

My band mates in The Blisterz used to get so frustrated with me. Whenever we'd have a gig, I'd request we play the earliest spot possible...You know, when nobody has shown up that I could get myself home at a decent hour, get to bed, and get up to write. If you're in a band, you don't want to play the early spot. You want to play the late, late, late spot, when the bar is major league packed and everyone is pretty well lubed up. Lubed up audiences are very forgiving. Even when they're shouting out for FreeBird, and you start playing Beat the Brat instead.

But I digress...

As a writer, mornings are precious. Like Hemingway suggested long before me, the morning is the time when you're are most alone and isolated with your thoughts. The dawn is peaceful and the daily rigors of every life like emails, snail mail, needy kids, grumpy spouses, telephone calls, uninvited guests, and more get in the way of your work.

But hey, that's life!

If, however, you can manage to get your page quota in by noon, you then have the rest of the day to deal with said life, and all the adventures it promises to bring your way. Somehow a phone call from the wife telling you she just rear-ended the guy in front of her while she was texting doesn't sound as painful as it might otherwise be if your pages are completed. If you receive an IRS bill for unpaid taxes, it becomes more like water rolling off a duck's back so long as you have gotten your daily quota of words in.

Your writing is your shield and your sword and your rock. It is what you have in the face of uncertainty. It is surety and stability when the earth beneath your feet is splitting open, and about to swallow your home with the dig still asleep inside it. And it all begins in the dawn, when you are the only person awake on earth.