Friday, April 27, 2012

Speed Does NOT Kill

Go, writer, go!

It can mean many things, not the least of which is that chemical stuff all the sixties hippies used to inject to enhance the creative process. But it can simply mean, going fast. Back in the olden days, when I started out writing, I sat down with one of my MFA in Writing professors and asked him what he thought was a reasonable output of work for a lifetime of writing.

I can still see the humble, raggedly dressed man ... a man who lived in Vermont and who'd written a couple of novels that were critically praised but hadn't sold very well. Thus his position in life as a teacher, not at one school, but many schools (Poor guy).

I recall him inhaling a breath before saying in a near whisper voice, "If you write two or three real good short stories and maybe five novels, that's something to be proud of."

At the time this seemed like a reasonable answer to me. In fact, the thought of writing five good novels seemed almost overwhelming to me since, like the MFA prof, my goal was to teach writing and to write on the side once I graduated from the program. If I wanted to follow the career path of the literary writer who taught, I would be more or less expected to write one novel every ten years or so. If I toed the line according to that math, five novels would carry me into my 70s.

Fast forward fifteen years.

I didn't become a teacher. I became a writer instead. A journalist, a pro blogger, and a noir novelist. Not only have a I written and published those two or three real good short stories, I've probably published fifteen of them (yes, yes, yes, in very good journals and mags). And compared to some great short story writers out there, like Dean Wesley Smith or Leslie Edgerton, that's absolutely nothing. As for the five novels, I currently have about ten in print, with two more on the way. Five of those ten are about to enter into second and their third editions.

My point to all this braggadocio?

Back to Dean Wesley Smith.
In his blog, he talks at length about "Speed" taken from a larger a piece he calls "New World of Writing." Speed, according to Smith, is what separates a professional writer from an amateur. Gone are the days of writing one book every ten years. Gone are the days when you were considered not worthy of literary status if you even thought about writing more than one book every ten years.

In today's new "golden age" of writing opportunities, where a writer can maintain major, indie, and self-publishing deals all at once, it's the writer who can put out two or three good novels and maybe at least that many short stories per year who is going to bring in about as much annual cash as your average accountant. Maybe more so, depending upon your popularity and your ability to hit some home runs in the sales department, such as having a novel hit and remain in the Amazon Top Ten for a few weeks, like my novel The Innocent did a year ago and has come very close to doing a few times again since. In fact Smith claims that you don't even need to hit a home run to make a great living, and he's got that math to back up his words. You can check out his very informative blog right here. It makes for speedy reading.

I'm still a journalist (even if I only have time to work for one trade publication right now), and I am presently writing and polishing two novels per year on average. I write maybe two or three short stories per year. I'm planning on adding one or two short novelettes to that mix soon. I've yet to spend the entire day writing, while I like to use part of my day for working out, fly fishing, walking, drinking at the local, traveling, cooking, hanging with my girlfriend and our daughter, hanging with my sons, thinking, living, reading, simply being. Imagine how much work I might put out if I wrote for as many hours as some lawyers put in at their practices? It would certainly amount to more than two or three novels per year. More like ten or twelve.

We all need to embrace speed in this, the new golden age of writing. But we also need to find a speed that we are comfortable with. A speed that doesn't compromise the quality of the work. Only when we write so fast that our work suffers does speed kill. 



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Bond...James Bond..."

Here it is...My first DIY expereince...and certainly not the last.

As most of you already know, I've been away since the first week of March and only arrived back in New York a couple of days ago. Not only have I been living six hours ahead of EST, I experienced two back to back daylight saving "spring aheads." Add to that flying from Paris to California and then back to New York, three days later, and you can see why I'm awake all night and asleep all day. I am however, getting back into my normal writing schedule.

A few things have happened since I've been overseas. My books THE REMAINS and THE INNOCENT both made the rise back into the Top 200 over-all Amazon Kindle Bestsellers, the latter coming within a short hair of breaking the Top 100. This just goes to show you that E-Books can have many, many runs up and down the Amazon bestseller list. Perhaps an infinite amount of runs. In the old days, you had one run at the top and that was about it. Now anything is possible with a bookshelf that contains infinite space.

The State Department has filed their suit against the Big 6 (or is it Big 5?) for colluding on E-Book prices. Indie expert J.A. Konrath has the story here. To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure I understand the ins and out of this "Agency Model" suit. But as writer who was originally groomed for the construction business, I certainly know what "collusion" means. And it ain't good. All I know is that Random House nearly ruined my career once and that in itself is crime enough. If these companies did indeed collude to fuck over writers, I hope the judicial system tosses the book at them.

Thomas & Mercer, my new powerhouse publisher and Amazon Publishing imprint, has just acquired a whole bunch of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. More specifically, the publisher has acquired E-Rights having snatched them right out of Penguin's hands. The enthusiastic and future-thinking spokesperson for the Fleming estate had this to say about Amazon's ability to place their books in a position to outsell any other publisher on the planet: “We believe that Amazon Publishing has the ability to place the books back at the heart of the Bond brand, balancing traditional publishing routes with new technologies and new ways of reaching our readers.”

Can you say, "Bond...James Bond...?" In any case, I'll drink to that. A dry martini. Shaken, not stirred. 

I've been invited to attend the BEA in New York City this June by Amazon Publishing, and I was honored to accept the invite. It takes place June 5-7 and should be a very exciting opportunity to rub elbows with the best of the best in the ground zero of literary success. I hope to run into some old friends and make some new ones, and of course, to push my new novels, BLUE MOONLIGHT and MURDER BY MOONLIGHT, both coming in December from Thomas & Mercer. 

Finally, the re-publication of my 1995 literary novella, PERMANENCE, is about to become a reality. And for the first time ever, I am putting one of my out-of-print novels out on my very own. Yup, I'm about to self-publish through Amazon's KDP program. Makes me kind of proud and nervous at the same time. But I see this as the first in many books, novellas and short stories I will be publishing through Bear Media while continuing to publish traditionally with my indie and major publishers.

It's Spring in New York. A really great time to put pen to paper. I have a lot of stories to tell this year and while I've begun some, I'm having a hard time holding others back. I only have two hands to work with. But it's nice and comforting to know that the stories are still in me no matter who publishes me and how.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hate Amazon? Well Read About What Random House Did to Me and My Family...

The third edition of As Catch what???? Or what's now better known as The Innocent....

I thought I was done writing about this particular subject... the subject of the old guard and establishment writers/MFA profs, publishers, and booksellers ragging on Amazon Publishing because, oh gee, they are doing something the old guard can no longer do: sell books.

This past week while I've been away, bestselling author and fellow Thomas & Mercer (Amazon) author, Barry Eisler, was invited to do a live chat with some Seattle Times reporters and the bestselling literary novelist, Richard Russo. Russo, whose books I like but who is also in that MFA-you-should-set-your-sights-on-teaching-at-the-community-college-don't-forget-to-pay-your-tuition is a huge hater of Amazon. And the ST has just run a scathing 4-part series on Amazon picking them apart like they are Satan.

Maybe they are Satan (if you believe in that kind of thing) but more than likely, they are not. They listen to both authors and writers and so, they now are able to offer great books at low prices. And yes, it's putting big publishers and bookstores out of business. I know, I'm supposed to cry for these people, but they had a chance to survive and in fact thrive in today's digital book publishing world, but they haven't. And now they are going the way of the 8-track.

 Bon voyage.

I'm not as knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the publishing industry as Eisler and say, J.A. Konrath are, and I've never self-published a book, although one of my indie publishers is entirely based on the self-publishing model even if my deals with them are agented. But I have also been published by the majors and once more, I've just signed a 7 book deal with T&M for a "very nice" advance, part of which I'm spending right now in Italy and Paris, where I've been for the past month. 

Ok, maybe you think I'm bragging? 

Maybe so. 

But while Eisler goes on to defend the obvious author/reader benefits being provided right now by Amazon publishing, try and consider for a brief moment just how Big Six Publishing not only tried to crush my career a few short years ago, they literally cost me a marriage.

Once more, I'll bullet my near suicidal relationship with the Big Six and, in particular, Delacorte Press...You know, the supposed "good guys" of the industry.

 --I was contracted in 1999 for mid-six figure two book hard and soft deal.

--I was told to change the name of my novel, The Innocent to As Catch Can, because another author in their stable was publishing one of the same title. As Catch what?????

--While the hardcover was being produced, talk around the office centered on Delacorte being swallowed up by another publisher. They more or less dropped attention on As Catch what???, and rushed a very poor front cover into production...Yup, an insider pulled me aside and admitted the cover was a total fuck up....Oops, it's just people's lives we're dealing with here...

--I was promised ads in The New York Times and support for a Northeast tour. I got neither.

--Delacorte shut down and was indeed swallowed up by the new publisher only weeks after the publication of As Catch what????

--I was suddenly the bastard child of the new publisher.

--They reneged on the contract and only agreed to publish the second book in the deal in paper. It was of course my right to sue them. But who in the world wants to sue a conglomerate cartel like Big New York? The big wigs laughed at me and went on vacation in the Hamptons.

--The second book was printed. Not published. Not even the B&N around the corner from Times Square had one in stock. It was around this time I met my then editor for a drink in NYC. In her words, "You didn't hear it from me, but they are preventing you from selling books."

--Now that I didn't sell out my 250G contract for no fault of my own, another publisher wouldn't touch me if a gun was pressed to his or her temple. And at one time, the most powerful agent in the world was repping me: Suzanne Gluck. I must assume that an agent of her caliber chooses only manuscripts she sees tremendous potential in.

--Delacorte (Random House) refused to release my rights...even though they remaindered my books. An evil, self-serving move if ever there was one. "We're not going to sell your books, but ahhh, neither can you!" Hitler comes to mind here...Too harsh? Okay, at least Uncle Joe Stalin.

--I went broke.

--I had to sell my house

--I lost my wife

--My children had to move, quit their schools, give up their friends

--I nearly lost my reputation and my sanity

--I could have quit writing

--But I didn't...

--I wouldn't let the motherfuckers beat me

--My new agent, after 8 grueling years, was finally able re-secure the rights to my two books

--An indie, StoneHouse Ink, took on As Catch what??????, changed the title back to The Innocent. It sold almost 200,000 E and paper Books. Plus they published several other novels of mine that have also sold in the hundreds of thousands, primarily in E-Book, of which I was making a 50% royalty as opposed to the 12.5% of Delacorte.

--My career not only shot back up, I could have easily made up Delcorte's advance plus plenty of change.

--Thomas & Mercer signed me to a seven book, "very nice deal."

--The Innocent (formerly As Catch what?????) is about to published in its third edition. 

--I got my wife back.

--I travel all the time and write fiction for a living.

--I make more in royalties per month than most editors in their paychecks--the same editors who went on to reject me after the Delacorte train wreck...Rejected me because they had too.

Of course, I could go on and on, but those old time writers like Russo who teach at the MFA programs and think that they themselves are not a part of a money making racket designed to lure would-be writers (or no talent writers) into a "literary writing program" that costs tens of thousands of dollars, had better take a good fucking look in the mirror.

You know who you are.

I've been taught by you, criticized by you, ridiculed by you and now I am feared by you. You are old and gray, teaching the same tired lecture. You're also short of breath while climbing the stairs to the next workshop you've been hired to preside over at one of those garden variety low residency MFA programs that are springing up all over the globe like reality TV and Pampers.

And for all you editors who couldn't take me on because I didn't sell out my advance while my rights were held hostage? You can work for me as a freelancer....if the price is right.

Pay back's a bitch ain't it?

Ok, off for some steak frit...It's Saturday in Paris...In the springtime.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pigs On a Leash and a Writer Nearly Breaks His Neck

Look at the Writer nearly break his neck at the Da Vinci Childhood Home!

Maybe it's got something to do with April Fools day, but while jogging this morning along the Arno, I passed a grown man walking a pig on a leash. It was a big black pig (as opposed to a small black pig), and the man was walking him/her on a red lease like the pig was your garden variety golden retriever. It sort of made me feel like I was caught up in one of those trippy psychedelic music promos from the late 60s that the Beatles would put out. "I am the Walrus...Goo Goo G'Joob."

I'm nearing the end of a near month long stay in Italy to write, research and just generally have fun. I've jogged around 150 miles, walked more than that, contracted a nasty case of bronchitis, motorcycled the Tuscan mountains, sneaked a peak at a lost Da Vinci, written nearly 100 pages of a new Moonlight book, and rewritten sixty pages of Aziz, plus numerous small articles and blogs.

On Wednesday I fly to Paris for a week of more writing, thinking, eating, and running. Paris is a more or less gift to myself. A place where I can do more research and work while spending some of my T&M advance dough on French food and wines. There's something about walking the river in Paris, especially when it rains. I'm hoping for some rain.     

 On April 11, I'll fly to New York then directly on to San Fransisco, where I'll meet up with my sig other, L. We'll see some special old friends, run on the beach and, if I have my way, take a boat to Alcatraz. I'll also meet up with an old college buddy to plan out a late Fall excursion to South East Asia. Mostly I'm excited to see L.

There's a baby crying outside my open window right now, and the smells of roasting garlic, olive oil, and tomato sauce are permeating the air like a perfume fragrance from newly spread rose petals. It's just as seductive. Sexy even. Food sex....

See you all upon my arrival in Paris....