March 30, 2007
I think Spyscribbler's on to something. She said she had spring fever. I couldn't quite figure out why I was struggling this week to find interest in, well... anything. We went to Texas for the weekend, it was 80 degrees and sunny. We came back and had record highs on Monday and Tuesday--right around 80, thanks, I'll take all the credit for bringing it back with me. Then Wednesday it dropped into the 40s and 50s and the weather guy this morning even mentioned the possibility of snow next week come Wednesday or Thursday.
How are you guys dealing with spring fever?
March 29, 2007
I'm bored with writing about literary agents and since nobody had any comments, maybe you are, too. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. I'll do my best to answer.
My agent asked me on Monday to put together a pitch for THE SERPENT'S KISS that she was going to send to a movie guy. I did, and the response already was something along the lines of: "I'm in. I'm absolutely in unless the book is totally boring."
So now the movie guy is reading the novel and we'll see.
I told my agent that I was optimistic but wildly skeptical, which strikes me as being a healthy attitude when dealing with movie people. As Jody Picoult wrote in a recent Writers Digest piece on her experience with film, the biggest difference she's discovered between publishing and the movie business is that in publishing they tell you they hate you for years and years and then grudgingly allow you in, while the movie business tells you they love you and then do nothing.
Still, it's exciting. This has happened before--not quite so quickly or enthusiastically and it's the first time I've written the pitch--so experience suggests that my skepticism is reasonable. It's hard not to wander off into daydreams of buckets of money, hit movies starring George Clooney or Matt Damon, a franchise, opening night, trips to California, a chance to write a screenplay (I said this was a daydream, okay?), blah, blah, blah, blah...
So I'll just sit here for a moment and savor the moment.
Labels: film options movies
Literary Agents, Part 2--The Query Letter
March 28, 2007
There's a really terrific post from March 21 on BookEnds Literary Agency blog
(they're not my agent, but I like their blog). And you should read--every writer, published or not--this because it's an important post.
So what is one of the biggest problems I see in query letters? Lack of
conflict. And for those of you who are published or have an agent and think this
post isn’t for you, think again. The same blurb you used to pitch your agent is
the same type of blurb you should be writing to pitch your editor a new book
idea, give cover art and text suggestions, or grab a reader through your Web
site or advertising.
So here's a sample query letter:
Mark Terry, writer
1234 Alphabet Lane
Oxford, MI 48371
March 28, 2007
Ms. Big Advance
Big Deal Literary Agency
Dear Ms. Advance,
I have written a thriller called THE SERPENT'S KISS, featuring terrorism troubleshooter Dr. Derek Stillwater. When a terrorist calling himself the Serpent kills over 50 people in Detroit, Derek is sent to investigate. Before the bodies have even been identified, the Serpent contacts the media demanding a $3 million ransom or he will strike again at noon. Derek, teaming with FBI Agent Jill Church, must race to identify and stop the Serpent before he can strike again. But the Serpent is one step of law enforcement and has laid deadly, explosive booby-traps for anyone trying to track him down. Derek and Jill must form a reluctant partnership just to survive the day. It soon becomes clear that the Serpent has inside knowledge of the government's responses to terrorism attacks and the first attacks are only the opening salvo in a number of increasingly escalating terror disasters that only Derek and Jill can stop.
I am a fulltime freelance writer, editor and novelist. I have published three previous novels, CATFISH GURU (iUniverse, 2002), DIRTY DEEDS (High Country Publishers, 2004), THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK (Midnight Ink/Llewellyn Worldwide, 2006), and two short stories. The short stories are "Just As Dead", published in Orchard Press Mysteries (2002) and "Murder at the Heartbreak Hotel" published in SHOW BUSINESS IS MURDER, an anthology published by Berkley Books (2005). I am an active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Inc., and the Association of Health Care Journalists. My website is www.markterrybooks.com.
Enclosed is a one-page synopsis of THE SERPENT'S KISS, the first 50 pages, and an SASE. I look forward to hearing from you.
Now, a couple points.
1. I didn't tweak or make this shine. You need to. Treat the query letter like you would your manuscript.
2. I tend to err on the business-like rather than the advertisement pitch. That's me, but if you're comfortable with more heightened language, go for it. Just be careful of sounding like a used-car salesman on speed.
3. What if you don't have any publication credits? If you have some experience relevant to the book--ie., you're a forensic expert writing about a forensic expert, you're a music teacher writing about a music teacher who solves crimes, etc., then by all means mention it. Otherwise, it's largely irrelevant, so minimize it.
4. No more than one page.
5. Shorter is better.
6. I didn't include a closer, but it doesn't hurt to end with something like: I am seeking representation for this manuscript and any others I plan to write.
7. If you chose this agent for a reason--I know you represent so-and-so, whose books are similar to mine; my good buddy Harlan Coben told me I should contact you; we met at the bar at Bouchercon and I have photographs of you dancing naked on the tabletop to prove it--then put that at the front. If you drew their name at random because they handle the types of books you write, keep that to yourself.
8. Don't sound like an idiot, stalker or egomaniac.
9. Don't say you'll be the next bestseller.
10. Keep it professional.
Literary Agents, Part I
March 27, 2007
Literary Agents, Part I: New York City Versus The Rest of the Planet
My friend Robert Kuntz e-mailed me yesterday to ask my thoughts on whether it was important to have an agent in New York City. I gave a fairly long reply and I suppose the bottom line was "no" although hopefully a little more thought went into it than that.
For the record, my agent is not in New York City. She's currently living abroad, and I have no idea if that is permanent or not. When I signed with her she was in New Mexico, then moved to Houston. Her husband has one of those jobs that involves travel and re-location.
Anyway, I have had an NYC agent, in that case, Ben Camardi of the Harold Matson Company. Ben repped me for 6 years and never sold anything, although he certainly tried. I parted ways, reasonably amicably I hope, primarily because after 6 years I sensed a definite lack of enthusiasm whenever I called or sent a manuscript. I thought that was reasonable, actually, although it took me quite some time to hook up with another agent.
Back to the point, though. Do you need an agent in NYC? Well, it sure doesn't hurt. In theory, agents in NYC are always getting together for lunch with editors. I doubt this is really as common as it used to be. Which isn't the point. Is it necessary? No, I don't think so. We live in the age of the Internet, e-mail, FedEx, UPS, cell phones and fax machines. Many editors and publishers and agents are moving away from snail mail and paper manuscripts to PDF files and Word docs and e-mail. If you want to read the manuscript in your hand, print it out yourself and save on postage (and spend more on paper and toner--god given; god taketh away).
And any agent who wants to stay in business is going to have to communicate regularly with editors anyway. That's part of any business, that kind of "networking" thing, staying in touch via phone or e-mail or occasional visits. That way if you deliver a supernatural thriller about underwater Nazi cheerleaders, your agent can call up the Doubleday editor she'd just been talking to a couple weeks ago and say, "You remember when you told me what you really wanted to see was a supernatural thriller about underwater Nazi cheerleaders? Well..."
It has been said, and I think it's probably true, that good agents are about the two R's: reputation and Rolodex. If an agent repeatedly sends crap to editors, the editors aren't interested later. And the agent needs to have contacts.
Most new agents come from publishing at some level. They were editors or were in the marketing department of publishers or were publishers themselves. As a result, they have contacts. If they want to stay in business, they maintain those contacts and work to develop more--by going to conferences, by visiting offices, by making phone calls and e-mails, by reading the trades like Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch and the New York Times business section, among others.
So note that the two Rs are not the two Rs & an L--reputation, Rolodex and location.
Do I sometimes wish I had a NYC agent? Yeah, sure. But my agent has done very well by me, she's responsive to my e-mails and phone calls, she likes my writing, and she delivers manuscripts to a variety of editors in NYC and outside and negotiates contracts aggressively. And I know not everybody likes to think much about this, but she also has contacts with other publishers around the world, and although this isn't relevant to my contracts with Midnight Ink, if you have notions of making a living as a novelist, foreign rights sales can be a very, very big deal. (Right, Joe Moore?)
So, as I told Robert, what I think you ultimately need is an agent who responds to your work and is willing to aggressively market it. The location is somewhat secondary.
Congratulations Liz & Tim
March 26, 2007
It's been a long and tiring weekend. My nephew Tim got married to the beautiful Liz--in Austin, TX on Saturday. As you know, I live in Michigan.
So, the round-up:
Friday: My wife drops Frodo at the kennel and we're on the road by 9:00 to get to the airport by 11-ish. Traffic sucks. Our flight leaves Detroit at 12:10 to St. Louis. There's a 50-minute layover in St. Louis and we find ourselves having just the right amount of time, no more, no time to get a drink, food, or much of anything but go to the bathroom and find the gate, which is at the absolute opposite end of the airport.
St. Louis to Austin. Relatively uneventful. Rent a car, then get totally lost on the way to the Austin Motel just off downtown Austin (pretty funky place). This happens so often to me that it's practically my MO. Anyway, we finally check in. My brother and two of his kids are staying at the Embassy Suites just down the road. We get together and after some dithering around we find a restaurant called Aussies. It's high-70s and sunny. In Michigan it was 50s and rainy. We sit outside and eat and chat, watching some college students play beach volleyball. Life is good. After a long crappy winter we're all ready to move to Austin permanently. Doesn't take much.
There's an after-rehearsal dinner get-together for everybody at the "compound," a friend of Tim & Liz's, I guess. The highlight of that seems to be the margarita machine--it's like a slurpy machine and you just walk over with your cup and pour yourself a frozen margarita--life is good. Michigan? What's Michigan?
Back to hotel, read for a while, crash.
We meet my brother for breakfast at a bakery down the road from our motel. Back in the '80s Pete got his PhD and was faculty for a year or so at U of T, so he took us on a tour of sorts. We took the Capitol Building tour--the portraits of Ann Richards and George W. Bush are next to each other; I find that sort of ironic. Then we drove over to a roadhouse called Threadgills where Janis Joplin got her start, had lunch. Then back over to U of T to the LBJ Presidential Museum, then over to the Science Museum to see some Llamas and the dinosaur bones and some wildlife on exhibit--a guy had a baby alligator to pet, live snakes, tarantulas, etc.
We wandered around campus for a while, then headed back to our hotels to more or less get ready for the wedding. First my family headed downtown to a store to get T-shirts--mine says KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD on the back. Then the wedding, outdoors, 80 degrees, sunny. The bridesmaids wore whatever black dresses they had. The groomsmen wore black slacks, blue Mexican wedding shirts and cowboy hats. Tim and Liz's two dogs--Biscuit and Bogart--were the ring bearers (not pictured above, but dressed to kill anyway). Then a Texas BBQ reception of BBQ chicken, ribs, sausage and brisket, etc., dancing, etc.
At 1:00 in the morning or so my oldest son wakes up and vomits all over the place in the hotel room. Probably too much BBQ and sinus drainage. This, like getting lost at least once per trip, seems to be something of a Terry Family Travel Tradition, one I hope my kids will get over.
7:30. We're up, more or less, dragging our butts off to the airport, wandering around. Run into my niece, Sara, who is flying back to Boston. We chat more at the airport than we did the two nights previous. Finally we get on our flight to St. Louis, then St. Louis to Detroit and we finally make it home around 10:00.
We like Austin. Great weather.
The Serpent's Kiss--preview & news!
March 22, 2007
We've updated the website (by me, I mean Heidi Mack). Just click on the header up above to go to the homepage. We've got the cover art of THE SERPENT'S KISS up, and if you go to the books page there's a brief synopsis and you can download the first two chapters to read.
For anybody who hasn't already read it, if you go to the Writings page, you can download my Derek Stillwater short story, "11 Minutes."
If you're not signed up for my mailing list, do so and you are automatically entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of THE SERPENT'S KISS (publication date July 1, 2007, $13.95, oy vey, vhat a deal!)
This Pen For Hire
March 21, 2007
A couple months ago I was talking to my agent, just a touch-base kind of thing, letting her know I was alive and what I was working on. I was working on the 4th Derek Stillwater novel and I was playing with a big espionage novel (currently on hold) and one night I had plopped onto the couch with the laptop and started playing, with no notion of doing more than entertaining myself, with a fantasy novel for kids.
My oldest son was reading over my shoulder--an annoying habit--and loved it and kept asking "What's next?" When I mentioned this bit to my agent, she asked to read it. It was about 25 pages, so I e-mailed it to her. She read it, loved it and asked when I would finish it. Well, I've finished it, she loved it and she's marketing it, so we'll see.
Also, Irene, my agent, said she had been discussing a YA concept with one of her editor friends, why didn't I try writing 25 pages or so on Concept X and send it to her. I'm not going to come right out and say what it is, but everybody on the planet would recognize it and I was surprised it hadn't been done for kids. So I wrote about 22 pages and a synopsis and turned it in to Irene, who loved it and sent it off to her editor friend, who did not love it.
It was a first lesson into how everybody has their own ideas about pre-sold ideas. So I figured it was dead and went on to finish the other kids' book and work on other projects. Then, around the same time (last Friday, actually) Irene sent out my kids' book to editors, she said, "So-and-so at XYZ Publishing is on the fence about your proposal for Pre-Sold Concept X and wants to read another 25 pages or so. How long will it take you to do that?"
Uh, I hadn't realized she was still peddling the concept. I told her a week to 10 days, then wrote them basically over the weekend and sent them off to her. So we'll see.
But it made me think of media tie-ins. You know those books, the ones based on TV shows or movies. Irene had told me that one of her clients had a gig to write a Nancy Drew book. The money was so-so (better than my current contracts though) but she was just so tickled to be writing a Nancy Drew book she didn't care.
Someday when I have more of a track record, I might pursue these tie-ins myself. There is money there and it's a challenge and hell, I'm a writer-for-hire and I'd just as soon make money writing a book about a pre-sold concept as I would an equivalent amount of money writing a magazine article or business report. At least once.
But if I had my choice of tie-ins? What would I choose? I admit, I'd be delighted with a chance to write a Star Wars book, especially if it dealt with Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker. I just think that would be fun.
But really, the one TV show I would most LOVE to write novels based on the character is Magnum P.I. I understand they've never done follow-up movies or any of that because of some contractual issues with Paramount. But if you were to ask me what my dream "fun" media-tie-in novel would be, well, it would be Magnum P.I., hands down.
How about you? What's your guilty pleasure?
Invitation to a New Blog
March 20, 2001
Everybody's invited to visit a new blog. It's called Inkspot
, and it's run by about 20 authors who are published by Midnight Ink. I kicked it off with today's blog post. Check it out and come back regularly, because there's sure to be a lot of variety.
12 Things I've Learned About Writing
March 20, 2007
Here are a few things, probably not all, that I've learned about writing and the writing life. Subject to change, of course.
1. Productivity is important. That means having schedules, goals, and working regularly.
2. Agents are important. They get you better contracts. They say things to editors you wouldn't dream of. They are your advocate. They get your manuscript to places you wouldn't be able to go to on your own. They support you psychologically and tell you honestly (we hope) about what they think of your work.
3. Optimism is important. I'm probably not an optimist and I've had my battles with depression, but neither am I a pessimist. But in writing, optimism is important. You have to have hope that things will work out for the best. Sometimes another word for that is "faith."
4. Writers are pretty cool. Neurotic and weird, but pretty cool. I've hung out with several at cons and in general, this is a cool group of people.
5. Spending large amounts of time in the company of imaginary people, who, as a matter of fact, you have created, is not really normal. It's fun, but it's kind of weird.
6. The more you value your work, the more others will, too. It's good to be realistic about what you can charge, but be aware that somewhere out there is somebody who places a very high value on their writing and gets paid accordingly. You should too.
7. It's a business. Writing novels is a business. Writing for a living, no matter how you do it, is a business. That means acting business-like, keeping records, proportioning time and/or money to things like office expenses and marketing and promotion.
8. Creativity is important, but a lot of people are creative. Harnessing and controlling your creativity, channeling it and putting it to work for you is what separates the pros from the amateurs and the wannabes from the published.
9. Yes, your writing is a product. You can be an artist in your office/studio/den, but the very second you send a query or manuscript to an agent/editor/publisher, you have turned business person and you are dealing with a product. Behave accordingly.
10. Success breeds success. It's rare to come out of the gate a winner. You have to prove yourself. For most of us, it's one thing at a time, we build careers on a foundation of lower paying jobs, well-received but moderate sales, short stories, book reviews, whatever. It's incremental, but it builds on itself.
11. Persistence is more important than talent. Talent is a very cheap commodity and there is a ton of product out there for editors/agents/publishers and readers to choose from. It takes persistence to get your product, whatever it is, to the right person at the right time. There are very few--if any--overnight successes.
12. You have to take risks. Perhaps we're back to "faith" and a leap of faith. That doesn't necessarily mean quitting your job and betting it all on the success of your unpublished novel manuscript. That's madness. But you may need to spend money or time that you'd rather not in order to built up a clientele, you may have to write things that don't necessarily make your spirit soar in order to pay your bills, you may have to take a risk writing something new than what you have been, you may have to do things like book signings or public speaking or travel that you don't really want to do to make it all come together. The risk might be psychological, but there's probably some risk involved.
Contacting Bookstores Directly
March 19, 2007Ron Estrada
has a post about cold-calling bookstores on his blog today. I responded at length--at such length that I decided I'd just repost it here.
Just be aware of a couple things. Presumably you're contacting bookstores for one or two things or both.
1. You want to set up a booksigning.If that's what you're going after, be aware that Borders, for instance, does not do this on a store-by-store basis, but has a regional events coordinator, who, by and large, isn't remotely interested in you unless your name is Stephen King or John Grisham. You can find this person through the Borders website. You'll end up with a voicemail. You'll leave a message. They'll never get back to you. You leave more messages. They continue to ignore you. You call them up and say you're John Grisham and you want to do a signing at their store. They don't believe you.
At other stores, they may require you to fax or e-mail a press release to get a signing. They may want this handled by a publicist. They may--very likely--say no, no thanks, go away, go to hell or any variation of the above. Some will hem and then they will haw and then they may or may not tell you politely that it's not worth their time and/or money to host a booksigning with you because you're, well, nobody and the idea here is to sell books for the bookstore and draw a crowd. Go away and come back when you're somebody. Of course, by then you can be picky and you'll remember every bookseller who ever dissed you.
If and when they say yes, you say thank you, set up a date, make sure they have books (make sure you bring your own just in case) and mark it on your calendar. There's more to doing this right, but hey, I'm just commenting here.
2. You're just calling to say "howdy." Your call may very well sound like this: "Hi, I'm Mark Terry, I've got a new novel coming out called The Serpent's Kiss. I'm just touching base with all the local booksellers to introduce myself and let you know I exist. So, hi. I exist."
Chances are you're talking to some lackey at the information desk. Be nice to them. They stock your books. You want them stocked at the front table or the new titles or the local author section, even if your publisher hasn't paid co-op for the privilege. Otherwise they'll shelf your thriller back in the mystery section, or way back in the back of the store ten feet off the ground where you can't be reached except by extension ladder.
Chances are they will be very friendly because, quite simply, you're not doing anything except saying "howdy." It's when you start demanding things of them--like book signings--that booksellers start getting evasive. They'll probably ask you the title again, your name, and almost assuredly the publisher. If you're self-published or published by iUniverse or by Fly-By-Night Books, inc., they may very well say, "Thanks for calling, bye." If they've heard of the publisher they may very well say, "Yeah, we'll order a couple. Thanks for calling." Say thank you and comment that you'll probably be swinging by after the pub date to sign stock, hope to see them then.
Here's the thing: the less demanding you are, the friendlier they are. Remember that the person you're talking to might not have the authority to do anything--they might not be able to set you up for a signing, they might not be able to order your book, they might not be able to do anything but stock your books if they're ordered and take customers' money. Is it worth asking for the manager? Maybe. Or assistant manager. Or "the person who orders books."
Oh, and I didn't mention the depression factor. If you've got some list of independent bookstores and you start calling, unless that list was compiled, like, yesterday afternoon, there's a very good chance that the bookseller you're calling is:1. Out of business2. Going out of business
Yes. I'm afraid that's just the reality of the indie bookstore these days. So good luck.
March 19, 2007
I've been spending the last week proofing the galleys for my next Derek Stillwater novel, THE SERPENT'S KISS. For anyone not familiar with the term, a galley is an intermediate step between turning in a manuscript and getting a completed book. It varies a lot from publisher to publisher, even book to book. In this particular case, I received the 370+ pages loose, like a manuscript, but the pages themselves had been laid-out to look like the book will. Although it's on regular manuscript paper, there have been markings to show where it will be cut to fit the book size.
Sometimes authors get bound galleys. They'll be double-sided and bound in some fashion. Sometimes it resembles the book itself. Sometimes authors who are published in hardcover get a version that resembles a trade paperback. Sometimes it has the cover art on it. Sometimes, like my previous publisher, it was done entirely on-line via either a PDF or a Word doc.
My job is to carefully read it and catch any corrections or make changes. I got a page of possible editorial notes from my titles editor, Wade (versus the acquisition editor, Barbara). Some were just alerting me to changes he had made, like noting that two characters owned Hondas and there were car switches and calling one a Honda and the other a Civic would clarify things a bit. Sometimes there are continuity issues, like Derek's good luck charms and what they are. Sometimes just a question about something.
I also might find a typo or two or a clunky bit of writing that bothers me.
It's sort of exhilarating, but it's exhausting, too. It takes me a while to do this because I really concentrate and go slow. It's really my last chance to fix anything before the book goes to press. Yeah, some things probably will slip through, hopefully minor. I find I can't do huge chunks. I usually proof maybe 20 or 25 pages at a time.
Still, it's another way you're convinced you're a real writer, and that's pretty cool.
Yeah, But Have Your Read These?
March 17, 2007
Yesterday I listed all those books. Now here are a few of my all-time favorites. Just a few. Have you read them? They're terrific.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
"I" is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
The Deal by Peter Lefcourt
To The Hilt by Dick Francis
Bag of Bones by Stephen King
Walking Shadow by Robert B. Parker
Small Vices by Robert B. Parker
Dr. Death by Jonathan Kellerman
Voodoo, Ltd. by Ross Thomas
Utopia by Lincoln Child
Decider by Dick Francis
I could go on and on, but these are the ones these are definitely some of my favorite books. There's a pretty high "fun" and "entertainment" factor to all of them.
March 16, 2007
This has been around a bit and I decided to borrow it from Spyscribbler's blog. I'm not doing all the "do-this" crap, so I'm just going to make a quick comment by each one.
1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)--listened to the audiobook; preferred Angels & Demons
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)--haven't read it
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)--haven't read it
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)--haven't read it or seen the movie
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)--read it a couple times; prefer the movies
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)--see #5
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)--see #5
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)--haven't read it
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) --haven't read it (or heard of it)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)--never heard of it
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)--loved it
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)--see #1
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)--loved it
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)--an American masterpiece
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)--haven't read it
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)--loved it
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)--never heard of it
18. The Stand (Stephen King)--both versions, probably a masterpiece of sorts
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)--loved it; my favorite of all the books so far
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)--haven't read it
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)--read a couple times
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)--my vote for most overrated literary novel in the canon, but I applaud and often wish I could emulate Salinger's approach to book marketing
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)--tried to read it
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)--haven't read it
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)--yes, in college and spent a lot of time giggling, especially about odes to belly button lint
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)--nope
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)--this series creeps me out (and the movie isn't much of a favorite either), but I've only read The Magician's Nephew, which I hate.
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)--yes, but I don't remember much about it
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)--an interesting book, reminding us of things we already know
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)--read several times; quite the visionary
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)--hope
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)--nope
34. 1984 (Orwell)--yeah and I hate rats
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)--nope
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)--nope
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)--nope
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)--nope
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)--nope
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)--nope
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)--ah yes, the first Sex Among The Cave People. I think I read the first 3.
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)--nope
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella) --nope
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)--nope and I'm not interested
45. Bible--yes, several times
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)--nope
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)--no, but the sandwich is ok
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)--nope
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)--nope
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)--nope
)51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)--started it, didn't finish, rare for me
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)--of course
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)--nope
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)--yes, wonderful
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)--yes and I should reread it, too
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)--nope
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)--loved it
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)--yes, loved it
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)--nope
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)--nope
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)--nope
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)--nope
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)--nope
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)--yes, best line: "I rather like looking at crucifixes."
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)--nope
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)--no, but I've read one of his short stories, which was lovely.
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)--nope
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)--yes
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)--yes
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)--nope
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)--nope
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)--nope
73. Shogun (James Clavell)--yes
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)--no & hated the movie
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)--nope
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)--nope
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)--nope
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)--yes
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)--nope
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)--yes
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)--yes
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)--yes, brilliant
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)--nope
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)--nope
85. Emma (Jane Austen)--nope
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)--parts of it
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)--nope
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)--nope
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)--nope
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)--nope
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)--nope
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)--yes
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)--parts of it
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)--nope
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)--yes, I think so
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)--nope
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)--nope
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)--nope
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)--nope
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)--nope
Would've been easier to list the ones I've actually read.
Letting Your Imagination Run Wild
March 18, 2007
I knew it! I knew it!
Be Careful What You Wish For
March 15, 2007
Yeah, I'm juggling. This isn't a complaint, merely a somewhat bemused observation. Here's the deal:
I sent off the manuscript for the kids' fantasy novel to my agent. She sent it off to 8 publishers simultaneously. Yikes!
Then she alerts me to the fact that the 25 page proposal for a kid series was at another publisher and they were on the fence and wanted to read more. How long would it take me to write another 25 pages? Gulp, says I, a week to 10 days. "Get to it," says my agent.
Meanwhile, we're still awaiting word on another sent to Forge, that editor I had lunch with back in January.
I'm proofing the galley for The Serpent's Kiss.
I'm supposed to be working on the 4th Derek Stillwater novel, whose manuscript is due in October. (I am, Barbara. Really. Right on schedule.)
I've got a big business report due June 1st. I've got two articles due next week, one which is a big pain-in-the-tush benchmarking article requiring me to scour company annual reports in search of data they don't like to talk about (like bad debt expenses).
I commented to Irene that it would be cool to get all these contracts, but if I did, when would I sleep? She said I'd enjoy the checks and besides, sleep was overrated.
Well, it's an exciting time, anyway, even if I feel a little bit like the lady with the axes up there.
How Many Publishers Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb?
March 15, 2007
There's a whole bunch of writing jokes over on NakedAuthorsBlog
. Most are pretty funny.
Three. One to screw it in. Two to hold down the author.
The Writer's Con Game
March 14, 2007
Gar Haywood has an interesting guest blog over at Murderati
where he talks about having confidence in your writing and having that manuscript in a drawer that you love and nobody else seems interested in.
I don't trust my own judgment enough to fight for this thing.
And I know what you're thinking: Who the hell does trust their own judgment? The writer has yet to be born who isn't shackled to some extent by insecurity. Self doubt is as much a part of our makeup as a need for wide-spread acceptance and, yes, the cash to pay our mortgage in perpetuity.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that the people who achieve large-scale success in our business tend to have a very healthy appreciation for their own work, if not a downright, pathological determination to see it take over the world. You talk to these people, you read and/or listen to the interviews they do, and what you hear is someone who doesn't give a rat's ass what their agents, editors or critics have to say, and probably never did. Their inner-voice has told them that their stuff is worth every penny of a six-figure contract and a fifteen-city book tour and, by God, they aren't leaving the room---or sticking their manuscript in any goddamn drawer---until they get it.
I often wonder about this. I suspect these people just fake it better than the rest of us. I suppose it's pretty easy to delude yourself (okay, perhaps believe is a better word) that you're a better writer than everybody else just because you got so much money, etc. I wouldn't discount luck and I suspect that in their heart of hearts, they don't either.
Still, if we're all totally insecure about our writing--from aspiring writers to neophytes to old pros--I wonder how we can find the confidence to keep sending it out. Doesn't every rejection letter feel like another nail in your creative coffin, confirmation of every single doubt you've ever had? Yes, I suck. I know it and now you're telling me to my face.
Somewhere along the lines you've got to convince yourself (and as a result, I think, the rest of the world) that you're pretty damned good. Of course, it helps to have success. A short story published, a novel published, a good review, a fan letter. Once we get published, we tend to cling to these confirmations when the wolves howl at the door and the voices from beneath the bed mutter how talentless we are, how can we believe anyone would pay to read our writing.
It makes us pretty damned bipolar, I think.
I'm a pretty strong believer in two old adages, though. One is the old alcoholics' creed: fake it 'til you make it.
The other is: believe it and you can do it.
Do you believe?
My Mind Is Misbehaving
March 13, 2007
In Stephen King's BAG OF BONES, which is probably my favorite King novel, bestselling author Mike Noonan says several times that a writer is someone who has trained his mind to misbehave.
As I mentioned briefly yesterday, I had sent off a manuscript for a kids novel to my agent, who loved it. I also found out that a previous proposal for a kids' series I wrote was still making at least some of the rounds. Irene loved the manuscript I sent her and I'm really hot on it as well. So while walking Frodo this morning I allowed myself one of those fantasies--you know the ones, the six-figure book deals, the movie deals, the condos in Maui, the...
Joe Konrath recently had a blog post where he was asking whether he should take a real vacation with his family. Apparently he got in an argument with his wife about it. She wanted to rent a cabin for a week and he argued that the reason he was working so hard promoting was so they would be able to afford one themselves.
Tobias Buckell recently posted a podcast (he wisely calls it a Buckellcast) on his blog, commenting that the average advance for a first SF novel was $5000, and by working hard, you might be able to bring that up to about $12,500. Then he flashes a book written by this lady and comments that he guesses all novelists are going for the brass ring.
I'm afraid it never ends. I noted with amusement of an interview I read recently with a book editor when both John Sandford and Lee Child were mentioned, he said, "Well, they're not on the same level, by the way." By same level he meant commercially and I had to wonder about that for a minute. Who was higher? My guess is Sandford, but I don't actually know.
And I interviewed bestselling author James Rollins and I commented that I thought he had handled the technical exposition of quantum mechanics in his last novel very well, comparing it to the 30 or 40 page expository first chapter in Michael Crichton's TIMELINE. Jim suggested that 1) his editor would never let him get away with that, and 2) if he sold as many copies as Crichton, maybe he could.
I'm of two minds about these sort of financial daydreams. One, I suspect they're not terribly healthy. And two, I think they're useful because they make us strive harder. It's not all about money certainly, but money can provide a certain kind of freedom, too. I'm afraid I would be a pretty boring rich person, though. No "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" for me. I'm not big on fancy cars. I'd probably travel more. I would probably replace the carpeting in the house instead of having it steam cleaned (today). I'd definitely buy a boat. I'd sort of like a condo or vacation home up north and while I'm at it, wouldn't mind a home or condo someplace warm like Florida. But my brain just doesn't wander in the direction of private jets (John Grisham) or owning sports teams (Tom Clancy). No caviar dreams (gag me, the one time I had caviar I spit it out; I couldn't believe people put that in their mouth willingly) or champagne fantasies (gives me a headache).
So I might have to slip the leash back on my imagination for a while and just hope the book gets published so people can read it. Because that's the most important thing.
The Politics of Rewrites
March 12, 2007
That drawing is from Kiddography, the blog of a rather wonderful artist. Check it out.
Anyway, it reminded me ever-so-slightly of some of the, er, headaches involved with rewrites. I've been rewriting a lot lately. I just completed responding to the editorial notes for the third Derek Stillwater novel, ANGELS FALLING, when I received the galleys of the second Derek Stillwater novel, THE SERPENT'S KISS. A whole bunch of rewrites; although all small issues, you as a writer need to try and figure out what they're getting at, which isn't always 100% clear.
As I've mentioned before, I wrote a kids fantasy novel. I turned it in to my agent and she received it Friday and read it this weekend. I received an e-mail from her Sunday saying she loved it, but had one chapter she wanted me to either eliminate or change. She also felt like one character, a giant talking squid, sounded too much like Yoda from time to time, so I should tweak that.
She was right about the squid and it was an easy fix. The chapter she wanted me to cut was a different issue.
In this chapter our hero's geography teacher is being possessed and/or replaced by a demon and he kills it using his magic sword. I had a few uneasy moments when I wrote this chapter the first time because of the nature of the demon. That was what I thought Irene was worried about, so I changed the demon to an Encantado (a shapeshifter out of Brazilian mythology) and basically left the chapter the same. Then I sent the PDF off to Irene.
She came back with, "No, you really need to change this with the teacher or at least..." etc, etc.
After giving this some thought, I realized that the demon aspect didn't bother Irene, but the violent attack on a teacher (in self-defense) by a student in the classroom, even if the teacher was no longer a teacher, was what was worrying Irene.
So I gave it a bit more thought, sifted through my options, and took the entire scene out of the school, changed its title, kept it as an Encantado, but since Encantados are shapeshifters, I had it begin as a crow, change to various other objects before turning into a 10-foot-tall version of the hero's uncle--at least until he pulls his face off to reveal his true nature.
I think this will address both of our concerns.
The lesson here was one I knew anyway and it comes up all the time in my nonfiction as well as my fiction. An editor (or agent) might suggest a change that you might not understand. For that matter, your editor or your agent may not necessarily be sure why they're requesting a change, but they know something's wrong. Your job as a writer is to figure out what they really mean and make the changes in a way that won't screw up your story. In this case, although I may be a little ambivalent about what Irene was saying, I understand her concerns. And I'm quite pleased with my final solution.
Of course, I was quite pleased with my original solution. But this is why I called this post The Politics of Rewrites.
Marketing Your Novel--A Footnote
March 10, 2007
Yep, I get tired just thinking about this. I dropped on over to Rick Riordan's blog and website and noticed that he has posted his tour schedule here.
Rick, for those of you who don't know, writes two series. One is about a San Antonio P.I. named Tres Navarre. The second is for kids, about a kid who discovers he's a demigod, Percy Jackson, half-son of Neptune. They're both great. Anyway, if you check out his schedule, and page through from March onward, you can see just how much touring he does. I'm sort of staggered by the whole thing, to be honest with you.
Marketing Your Novel, Part 1
March 9, 2007
With the publication date of THE SERPENT'S KISS hurtling toward me (JULY 1, 2007, feel free to pre-order :), my publishers and myself will love you for it), I've begun my marketing efforts. Although I'm not 100% comfortable doing this, I've decided to fill everybody in on my efforts as I go along, and more importantly, break down the dollar amounts and time put in. And when I'm done sometime in the fall (presumably), I'll total it.
I've decided to partake again of AUTHORBUZZ. We did this with THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK, although in that case I didn't pay for it. This time the money's out of my pocket (although it is tax deductible). AUTHORBUZZ is a series of e-newsletters focusing on your book, complete with cover and links, etc., and it's sent out to literally thousands of book buyers, booksellers and librarians. It also goes out on the e-newsletter SHELF AWARENESS, which if you haven't signed up for your free subscription, you should. AUTHORBUZZ is the brain child of bestselling author M.J. Rose and it seems to be taking off.
Does it work? Well, although one sometimes suspects that MJ is doing very well off this enterprise, I can only respond that on the days my entries came out my website traffic increased three to four times. So I've written my check and made my three entries and sent them off already. Part of my AUTHORBUZZ bit is a contest, but we'll talk more about that at a later date.
Time: About 2 hours
Mailings. For THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK I put together a tri-fold brochure. A graphic artist friend of mine redesigned it for free. Then I had it professionally printed, which cost well over $1000. I spent even more, bribing my kids with video games to stuff the envelopes and slap the labels on it. The labels cost about $100--I bought a list off the Internet of independent bookstores. Unfortunately, as I found out, a third to about half of those indie bookstores had gone out of business or moved, so I got about 1000 back. I have also got a database of libraries, most here in Michigan, as well as people who have contacted me or signed my guest book at signings. I've spent the last couple weeks sorting through all those returns and re-organizing my indie bookstore database. I'm not doing a brochure this time, but I'm planning on doing postcards. Anybody know of a good company that does these? I'm looking at Vista Prints.
Anyway, to-date I've got a total of 2190 addresses, so I'll probably get 2500 postcards printed up. That looks to be relatively inexpensive, about $155. Postage is estimated at about $854, although I haven't checked yet for postcard mailing rates (assuming they don't go up before June/July), but it might be lower. I'm awaiting part of an advance check and some travel reimbursement from one of my clients so I can cut my business Visa bill about in half before I order these, but soon.
Do these work? I was thinking no, but when I recently interviewed David Morrell I mentioned I didn't think they were effective and he said, "How can you tell?" I hemmed and then I hawed, then conceded that I actually probably didn't know. So I decided to try it again. Will it result in direct sales? Maybe a few. Hopefully by combining AUTHORBUZZ with mailings and my publisher's catalogues and any reviews I get in the trade journals like Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Library Journal, will result in some name and title recognition, reinforcing each other. You really have to think of marketing (for anything, not just books) as a CAMPAIGN, not just a single event.
Cost to-date: $0
Probable cost: $1000.
Time to-date: About 10 hours
Probably time: About 25 hours
Four months or so before publication is the time to start organizing formal book events like library talks and book signings. I'm not going this route, although if something comes up I'll do it. I know I'll be moderating a panel at the Kerrytown Book Festival in Ann Arbor in September. I was much happier doing informal drive-bys, so I'll be doing even more of those come July.
Anybody have suggestions, ideas or comments, let me know. I'm open-minded.
Labels: book marketing advertising book promotion
Writing For Fun & Profit
March 8, 2007
Actually, I'm not going to write about writing for profit. I do that all the time. I want to ask you a question: are you having fun?
I received a recent comment/question from a blog reader and have experienced this with a client.
What do you do when the fun has left the writing? When you’ve become so paralyzed by the rejections and critiques that you don’t even know how to begin? You’ve gotten so caught up in what you’ve done wrong or what you should be doing that you’ve lost the ability to even find a story?
I guess I wouldn’t call this writer’s block. I would call it mid-writer’s crisis. It’s that point when you’re taking a look at your life, both personally and professionally, and you begin to wonder how you got here, why you’re doing this, and what’s the point. It’s when you suddenly realize that this craft you once loved is no longer fun. And it’s the most tragic thing for me to hear about. Yes, rejection is part of this business. Whether you’re published or not you’re going to hear it—from editors, agents, reviewers, and even readers who “don’t read that type of book,” but when it paralyzes a writer something is wrong.
I'm reasonably confident that most of us got into this gig because we thought it might be fun. There may have been some ego involved and there may have been some dreams of big money, but you just don't keep at it if you don't enjoy the process.
One of the things I've discovered about writing for a living is that money concerns can be pretty debilitating to the creative process. There's a story about Mickey Spillane who was living on an island somewhere warm and he couldn't get any ideas for a story and had some version of writer's block and he got a call from his accountant telling him he was running out of money and faster than you can say "gratuitous sex and violence" the Mickster had plenty of story ideas.
I think most of us tend to work in the reverse, actually. What starts out as pursuit of things that interest us can get warped by pursuit of things that will sell. It's nice when they overlap.
My most common versions of so-called writer's block occur when I allow myself to think something won't sell or get published. There can be a number of subtexts there, like: it's a crowded marketplace; I'm not doing this well; my agent hates these types of books; etc.
I recently completed a fantasy novel for kids. I started it out completely and entirely as something to do for fun. To get away from the idea of publication and selling and write something completely different and just write for fun. Then my 13-year-old read it as I was working on it and kept asking me what came next--he loved it; my agent asked to read the first 25 pages and she loved it. But I thought how refreshing the whole experience was, to write something just for fun. (Of course, now I've sent it off to my agent and I'm getting that whole, will she like it, will we sell it, thing going again).
I've said it before on this blog, though. If you're not enjoying this and your livelihood doesn't depend on it, for god sakes, find something else to do with your time. You can't get that time back, so you'd better enjoy the process itself.
On Your Reading Radar
March 7, 2007
I'm trying to at least mention titles by Midnight Ink authors when they come out (at least until their catalogue gets too large). This one comes with a bit of a preface. I received an e-mail Monday from Susan Goodwill, who, as it turns out, lives quite close to me in neighboring Waterford. Proof, after all, that although the world can be a big place, it can be a small one, too.
This sounds like a funny, silly romp, which, as cozies go, are the ones I like.
Brigadoom by Susan Goodwill
The title link goes to Amazon.com and the Susan Goodwill link takes you to her website.
Good luck, Susan!
The Glamorous Life of A Writer
March 6, 2007
Monday (yesterday, for those of you keeping track), started the same as usual, then, because my online service had been flakey recently (or "unstable" in cable company jargon), after I walked Frodo, I promptly got on the phone to solve this problem. It was 9:00.
Around noon I got off the phone with my third rep and instead of "unstable" internet service I had NO internet service. The first rep was a lovely lady (presumably enjoying life in sunny Bangalore, India) who gave up after about an hour and put me on hold for a supervisor. Fifteen minutes later, said supervisor showed up, his English even worse than his staffer with a total lack of VOLUME to go with it. ("Could you please TALK LOUDER!!!") He told me to plug the modem into the computer and forget about wi-fi (not useful; my work computer is on the WAL) for a while. Well, that worked briefly until it didn't work at all.
The third guy was an American and he actually seemed to know what he was doing, which is more than what I could say about his customer (er, moi). By noon we had determined:
1. There was something wrong.
So we made a work order for somebody to come out to the house (today).
Since it was noon by this time and I needed to go to the credit union (and had missed my workout and...) I headed out to lunch, hit the credit union, then stopped by the local public library, which has free wi-fi, so I could check and see if there was anything important going on via e-mail. There wasn't. So I headed home. It was now 1:10 and I had done almost nothing resembling work. So I spent time working on my rewrite of ANGELS FALLING until 2:00.
What was so magical about 2:00? I had to go pick up my oldest son, bring him home, force him to brush and floss at gunpoint, then take him to the orthodontist. Finally, we got back home again at 4:20. My, what a productive day.
I should go work out. But I'd skipped one dog walk already and he was going crazy, so I took him for a long walk (in the cold, high winds, wind chill of about 0 degrees) and sat down with the USA Today to pout for a while.
Now, the wi-fi is a'goin' again, so we're back in business. Bet you wish you had as glamorous a writing life as me.
Stealing The Dragon by Tim Maleeny--A Review
March 4, 2007
Stealing The Dragon
by Tim Maleeny
Midnight Ink/Llewellyn Worldwide
Trade paperback. $14.95
STEALING THE DRAGON begins with an exciting flashback, P.I. Cape Weathers in a fight to the death and his miraculous and bloody rescue by his friend, Sally.
The book then jumps to the hold of a cargo ship, where Chinese refugees are smuggled on board. One of the refugees, aware that the crew of the ship is mistreating them and may kill them, takes matters into her own hands. In the next scene we witness the crewless cargo ship going aground on Alcatraz, the majority of the crew murdered and the refugees unwilling to say what has happened.
Cape Weathers is visited by his cop friend, Beau, who suggests that the case is being turned over to the Feds and sooner or later they're going to pay a visit to Cape's friend Sally, who at some level would be a prime suspect in this killing. Beau hints that it would be a lot better if Cape found her.
Easier said than done. STEALING THE DRAGON then begins to follow two timelines and storylines. One is Cape's hunt for Sally, who runs a martial arts studio in San Francisco's Chinatown, and when that fails, his investigation into the cargo ship massacre by way of various political and/or criminal leaders in the Chinese community.
The second timeline, and to me, the most interesting, is made up of flashbacks to Sally's childhood. The daughter of an American serviceman and a Japanese woman, she was orphaned at the age of five and "sold" to a Triad school in Hong Kong. The Triads are fairly complex Chinese organized crime families that go back hundreds of years. Raised within a version of a Shao Lin monastary, Sally chooses a particular path that makes her an assassin, although one eventually at odds with the family running the Triad. The dragon in question (at least the literal version, not the metaphorical version) in the title is a legendary statue of a dragon that belongs to the Triad and which is believed to provide luck and victory in all battles to whoever possesses. And it's been stolen. Was Sally the thief? One thing is certain--members of the Triad will kill anyone who stands in their way to get it back.
STEALING THE DRAGON is a terrific debut novel on at least two levels--as a PI novel and as an exotic martial arts novel. I don't think you would have to be a martial arts afficionado (like I am) to enjoy this novel. Sally's story is compelling on a lot of other levels and she's a very complex, fascinating character; perhaps more complex and fascinating than Cape Weathers and I suspect Tim Maleeny will have problems balancing the two in future novels. It's a fine tradition, though: Spenser and Hawk; Myron Bolitar and Win; Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. And now, Cape Weathers and Sally. Yeah, it's that good.
Take 7 With Tim Maleeny
March 2, 2007
has come out with his first novel, STEALING THE DRAGON
. Several months ago I got a publishing catalogue from my editor, Barbara Moore, at Midnight Ink with a note saying, "I think you'll like Tim Maleeny's 'Stealing The Dragon.'" Well, Barbara was right. I did like it. It's one of the most enjoyable first novels I've read in quite some time. I'll be reviewing STEALING THE DRAGON in a couple days, but Tim stopped by to chat.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself. You live in San Francisco? This is your first novel, right? Job, education, family?
I’m the son of an organic chemist and registered nurse, both of whom were voracious readers, so I grew up surrounded by books. Every time my family moved, the first thing we did was build bookshelves at the new house. We started off in New Jersey, then moved to Atlanta, then back to New Jersey. Since leaving the nest I’ve lived in New Hampshire, Seattle, New York and most recently San Francisco, where I live with my wife and two daughters.
I went to Dartmouth College and attended graduate school at Columbia. By day I work in the sordid world of advertising, where things take place that are far worse than the mayhem and murder I write about in my books.
STEALING THE DRAGON is my first novel. I’d written short stories before that, including the title story for DEATH DO US PART, an anthology edited by Harlan Coben for Mystery Writers of America.
2. Much of STEALING THE DRAGON revolves around organized crime in Hong Kong, Japan and San Francisco, especially with the Triads. What was your research like?
I tried joining an international crime syndicate but couldn’t pass the initiation test, so I had to settle for going to the library, reading a ton of books, and talking to people who knew more about criminals than I did. Over the years I had traveled to Asia for business several times and fell in love with Hong Kong, so writing this book was a way to travel back there whenever I wanted, at least in my mind. As for San Francisco, I live less than ten blocks from Chinatown, so that research was simply a matter of walking the streets and paying more attention to the back alleys than the tourist destinations.
3. From someone (me) who has a strong interest in the martial arts, seem to have either done your research or have some experience of sorts with some of them. What's your research there like?
I took judo and tae kwon do when I was younger, and though I’d love to say I’m a black belt, that would take us back into the realm of fiction. I’ve always had a passion for martial arts and Asian culture, from the James Clavell novels like Shogun to movies like House of the Flying Daggers. Writing this book gave me an excuse to do research into something I wanted to learn more about anyway.
4. What's next?
The second novel in the series comes out in October of this year. The title is BEATING THE BABUSHKA and it deals with the Russian mob and their involvement in the movie business. You’ll see some of the same characters you met in Stealing The Dragon, including Cape Weathers and his deadly companion Sally.
5. Most of my blog readers are aspiring novelists.
Keep reading and keep writing.
Sounds simple, but once you start writing, you read differently. You start to notice things like character development, dialogue and point-of-view. Then when you write again, your subconscious has applied everything you just read to making you a better writer. And don’t just read books in your genre; if you’re writing mysteries, try reading historical novels, science fiction, even poetry. It can help you find your voice.
6. What's the best thing you've discovered about getting your novel published? The worst?
The best is having people emotionally respond to your story, get excited about the book and bond with the characters. I’d only known that connection between author and reader from a reader’s perspective, and it’s amazing on both sides of the fence.
The worst is how much time it takes to actually promote a book. Your publisher can support you, but you have to put in the time, the effort, and often the money to market your book. And while I love visiting bookstores and meeting readers, you quickly realize that all the time you put aside to write another book is now being spent marketing the one you just wrote. I wish I didn’t need to sleep, and I wish I could write faster.
7. What's your favorite breakfast food? (Go read the book to see why I ask).
Pancakes, definitely, but I’d never say no to bacon.
Thanks Tim & good luck.
Interview With David Morrell
March 1, 2007
As promised, I have placed a link to my ITW interview
with bestselling author David Morrell. David gave a great interview--we had a terrific talk, as far as I was concerned--ranging from promotion, creativity, publishing and research to how to keep your head in the game. Check it out!