Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Real Writer to Check Out

Terrific article today by writer Pete Morin and his decision to publish the way he did. Go ahead and read it, commentary to follow:

I was there when Pete made his pitch, and Christine said "send it!" He was gobsmacked, while I was envious-- damn, a power agent-- he was on his way, and would have a book with a traditional big New York house.

Fast forward to two years later.
Nope, he had a good book with a dedicated agent, and still the Powers That Be in NY wouldn't publish it.
Because they wouldn't know how to market it. They freely admit they know nothing about the business of bookselling, how to sell a good book.

They want the equivalent of fast food- greasy, cheap, crappy burgers and mashed chicken bits, all tasteless, with tacked-on flavorings, all the same, to be sold at thousands of outlets for the masses.

Nothing good, nothing original, just the same endless crap shovelled over and over. Because there are people who buy this junk food-- it's easy, and the pub houses make money from it, without having to do much of anything. The A-B-C formulaic "Best-Sellers" are the bread-and-butter of the pub houses and bookstores, and they fill their shelves with this stuff.

Problem is, if you're doing the same old formula book after book, with nothing new, you're not much of a writer, you're more a typist (thank you, Truman Capote for that line). A real writer is an artist in the medium, and that requires us to take chances, to push the envelope-- we need to irritate, to outrage, to scandalize, to disturb. To write something memorable, not something exactly the same as the last six books.

But that kind of writing won't get past the gatekeepers. A few years ago, this was cause for depression-- there was no other viable path to reach a number of readers. Consigned to the margins, the best one could hope for was a posthumous fame.

But now there are options, and kudos to Pete for taking control of his situation. He's dead on the money-- we no longer have to wait for someone to give us "legitimacy,"-- that's what the readers do, when they buy, and like it. We make our own path, get our readers without the support of chain stores and paid-for reviews and marketing campaigns-- we do it all ourselves.

To those who cling to the old NY aristocracy, even as it collapses around them, we say that we'll be writing and selling and growing our fan base, while thousands of wannabes sit nervously by their mailboxes, waiting years for the NY Pub gods to pluck them from obscurity and propel them instantly to fame and fortune. Yeah, and I want to win the lottery. But guys like Pete and I aren't going to sit and wait for someone to find us, we're going to find readers by cranking out books and stories and selling them.

I read Pete's stories on Smashwords-- they're really good-- and I bought his book-- if it's as good as the stories, I'm in for a treat. This is the kind of writer I support-- a real one. I never go into a chain store and buy the lastest ghostwritten piece of crap by the machine that's always got a book on the special list.
He's even got a story for free: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/64593

And pennies for this collection: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/71893

And his book (a bargain), the concept which snagged a top agent in seconds: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/91217

Talk on Character Development

Hope you all survived the Thanksgiving Feed-a-Thon.

Now-- on to Christmas!

Omni Mystery News has me featured today, talking about character development in my writing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sites and Help for Writers

Found this from Twitter, so there's some justification for signing up for that limited communication...


And from that blog, a list of helpful tips from the master:

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules of writing:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving- and New Interview

Happy Thanksgiving, all. Each day I show my appreciation for the good things in my life by listing five things I'm grateful for. Nice to be reminded of how good we have it.
Pass some of that goodness on to others, that they might have it a little better.

Today Maya's Brazilian Book Worm blogger site has me featured with a nice interview. Good way to celebrate, while thinking of turkey. Wait a minute, that didn't come out well...

Anyway, have a good read, and a nice holiday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Said Better by Others, and at Length

Awesome pieces on publisher contracts, and why we should have choice:

The new World of Publishing

And get this- despite our being in a recession, and "the death of bookstores," e-books are evil, blah, blah, the damn big publisher multinationals are making bigger profits- by screwing the writers!
Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Grrr. Need a mental sorbet to cleanse the palate. How about a writer who funded a bookstore?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crime Bake II

Here's a more detailed report on the 2011 Crime Bake mystery conference, held in Dedham on Nov. 11-13th. This is a fun event for serious fans of mystery fiction, and you get to rub elbows with some of the top names in the field. And lesser ones, as it seems everyone has a book to hawk. Hey, I was no exception, exhibiting "A Memory of Grief" and postcards showing the cover of "A Fall From Grace." The response from folks showed that they loved the covers.

There are also agents and publishers in attendance, so it's no suprise that someone looking to pitch a novel shows up. There are sessions where you can sign up to pitch your concept to one of the agents attending. I did that in 2009, back when I was going the traditional publishing route. Now I'm following a different path, and am glad I did.

Understand, the hope for a big New York publishing house to pick up your book is very alluring. I talked to a few people there for whom this lottery had paid off, and they were doing well. Many others were still waiting for their big break. I could still be waiting, but instead I'm published and selling books, and have creative control over covers, pricing, and content, something you won't likely get with the traditional route. Once you sign, they make all the decisions, even if you hate what they do.

For example, they'll likely price your ebook too high, so you won't sell as many as you would if they had a reasonable price. Another example is covers. The Guest of Honor, best-seller Barry Eisler, told his famous tale of how the publisher had stuck one of his covers with a blank, bland, green garage door, despite his vehement protests. Would you read a book that had nothing but a garage door on the cover? Well, I'm sure it was cheap. Cost them heavily in the long run, though, as it's one of the reasons Barry left those idiots behind.

Having Barry as the guest was astonishing, for he is one of those leading the revolution against the traditional model of publishing. He famously turned down a half-million dollar contract, said he was self-publishing, then found a better way, as someone was smart enough to figure out a way to get his books to readers while making a profit for both the distributor and the author. What a concept, huh?

But as the conference is heavily tilted toward the print world, it was amazing to have an ebook poster child give a talk on the different options. You could see agents in the audience wincing, as they see more of their business slipping away. Many more authors are turning to other options, meaning they have less need of an agent to try and sell the work to one of the Big Six publishers remaining.

Glad to report that Barry is as engaging, informative, and downright nice as his postings have led me to believe. Am looking forward to reading my signed copy of "The Detachment."

Met many other authors as well. Finally got to talk to Gerry Boyle, a Maine writer whose works I discovered back in the 90's. Picked up a copy of his "Port City Black and White." Chatted with Toni Kelner again, and her husband Stephen, a nice guy whose book "Motivate Your Writing" is also on my new to-be-read pile.

Met a number of folks represented by the terrific, hard-working agent, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. Her gang loves her, and they're a lot of fun. I hung out with them, as I try to find the group having the best time, and they were it. Check out this new crop of writers:
Pete Morin- Diary of a Small Fish
Liz Lipperman- Liver Let Die
Kari Lee Townsend- Tempest in the Tea Leaves
Barbie Jo Mahoney
Lindsay Downs
Danielle Labue Bronson

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Giveaway Contest and Guest Post

Giveaway contest starting today at Book'd Out!

Enter for a chance to win an ebook of "A Memory of Grief."

Also with a guest post by me-- just a few thoughts of my take on writing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Great Review!

My novel "A Memory of Grief" got a great review today at Book'd Out.

Here's an excerpt:
"A Memory of Grief" is an exciting and strong series debut by Dale Phillips, whose writing experience shows in his well crafted prose. I enjoyed being introduced to Zack and look forward to A Fall Of Grace due out in the next few weeks."

Check out the site-- we'll be having a contest for a free version of the book.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Crime Bake I

Phew-- long weekend, attending the big mystery conference, Crime Bake. It was a wicked pissah, as we say up here. Too little sleep, lots of running around.

250 people, of whom about 200 or more are writers. And yet, it's not a spirit of competition, but of cooperation and camradery. Sure, one goes to promote one's own work, but there's also finding out about new books and writers. I'll have a lot of works from new writers to share.

Thanks to my publishers, Briona Glen, for providing me with promotional postcards featuring the cover of my soon-to-be released book 2 of the Zack Taylor series, "A Fall From Grace."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lots of News

So much happening in writing this month!
1. Just heard that my poem "The Sorcerer and the Maid" was accepted by Silver Blade magazine, and will appear in the upcoming issue, #12.

2. My mystery novel "A Memory of Grief" is being reviewed by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out next week, at: www.bookdout.wordpress.com

3. "A Memory of Grief" is also now available in libraries in the Merrimack Valley! Thanks to the Tyngsboro Library, where our Writing Group is hosted.

4. The Crime Bake Mystery convention is this weekend!

5. My first official book club talk is next Monday.

6. "A Fall From Grace," the second book in the Zack Taylor mystery series, and follow-up to "A Memory of Grief," is being released before the end of the month!

Not to mention writing more novels and stories, and looking for a way to create a website storefront to sell the writing. I need a personal assistant, a publicist, and a development team!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Guy Fawkes Day

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason, and plot.

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, everyone.
If you're not sure of what I'm talking about, it's a piece of history-- and made wonderfully relevant in the movie (and graphic novel) V for Vendetta.

In bookstore news, this piece comes from Salon: http://www.salon.com/2011/11/03/art_in_crisis_the_plight_of_independent_bookstores/

And writer and writing instructor Holly Lisle had one of her students land a work on the New York Times Bestseller list: http://hollylisle.com/one-of-my-guys-made-the-nyt-list-self-pubbing/?awt_l=HumRE&awt_m=JtbIDzcxkm.TgP

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Bookstore Royalty!

Huzzah! Got my first check from a bookstore-- for their five copies of "A Memory of Grief."
The place is Nonesuch Books, in South Portland, Maine, a very nice little shop with a lot of great writing for sale. Stop by next time you're up that way.

This is another milestone I've dreamt about and worked for for many years, getting a published book into bookstores where people can walk in and buy it. Am very pleased to have achieved another goal.

And yes, we finally got our power back, after being without from Sat night to late Wed. afternoon. The ordeal is over. Now back to more writing and publishing.

Apocalypse Now

4 Days without power, so far, and no end in sight. Those responsible for restoring basic services have no plan for a single unseasonal storm. With the weather patterns becoming more unbalanced, what's going to happen with more of these freak storms? It's the 21st century, and we're living in the Third World.

Apart from the hundreds of dollars in food losses, we have need of power in our home for medical reasons. So it's been a tough time.

Abandoned buildings are ablaze with abundant power, but homes don't have it. Pretty whacked-out system, if it's this fragile. Our civilization hangs by a thread, and this one thing shows how vulnerable we are.

Welcome to the future, folks. Better teach your kids how to run a generator and live by lantern-light.